On Tuesday 7 May and Wednesday 8 May the galleria during lunch was alive with the colours and voices of the Mental Health Awareness Art Exhibition organized by Art Council.
Prints, paintings, cartoons, collages—artwork created with various media were mounted on display boards to convey messages about mental health, racial diversity, and sexual orientation. Art pieces were submitted by Ms. Masemann’s grade 10 non-traditional art class, Ms. Bhowmik’s grade 11 IAPS (Introduction to Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology) class, and other MGCI students over a period of 3 weeks leading up to April 29th. A mural in the cafeteria titled “MGCI is Happy” displays the happiness of the school through photos and notes written by students.
In addition to the main exhibition of artwork, eight clubs and organizations set up stands in the galleria to display their artwork and resources concerning mental health. The Equity Committee put out a large black “Confessions Box” where students could drop in anonymous notes. Painted masks, scrapbooks, and drawings decorated the table set up by MGCI’s art therapist Ms. Shelley. “Art supports students in expressing challenges in their lives in a safe way. It externalizes their problems,” explained Ms. Shelley.
Local organizations outside the school such as the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office Youth Centre and Toronto Public Health sent in representatives to offer their information and pamphlets. On the second day of the Art Exhibition, pizza and samosas were sold to fundraise for Creative Works Studio, an art therapy studio partnered with St. Michael’s Hospital.
The purpose of the exhibition was to encourage students to seek help regarding their mental well-being and to demonstrate that support is available in the school, community, and among peers. When asked to share her motivation for supporting the exhibition, staff supervisor Ms. Masemann responded: “Some students think that you have to be crazy to get counselling. We want to normalize mental illness because it happens to so many people.”
“Every art piece contributed made it more comforting,” explained Khadija Aziz, president of Art Council and the organizer of the art exhibition. “I wanted Art Council to be a big part of MGCI, I wanted MGCI to be happy to have us, and I wanted to make a difference. I think this exhibition accomplished those goals and I couldn’t be any happier.”
Hosting a Mental Health Awareness Art Exhibition has now joined the line of MGCI traditions to be continued by future Art Councils. As a follow-up to the success of the event, guest speakers from Creative Works Studio will be joining MGCI students during lunch on Tuesday 14 May to speak about the healing quality of art.