We love sharing stories about people who are doing good in our 'hood. Our Marketing Coordinator, Lindsey Cepek, had lots of question for Lauren Wilson from Workman Arts + what we all can expect at their poetry anthology launch; happening in Drake Underground this May 5th.
Lauren Wilson: After graduating from the University of Toronto, I’ve pursued a career in marketing, events and communications. I am currently the Administrative & Outreach assistant here at Workman Arts which is an arts company that supports artists with mental illness and addiction issues and promotes understanding of mental illness through various artistic media. For the first time, Workman Arts has produced a poetry anthology that consists of 32 of our artists who, under the guidance of bill bissett (a renowned Canadian sound poet and Workman Arts’ current poet-in-residence), worked on and polished their work over the span of four years. We are all so proud of our artists and are in awe of their achievements. We can’t wait to celebrate the launch of the anthology, All That is Real, at the Drake Hotel.
LC: The poetry book launch is just one event that aims to continue awareness about how art positively impacts the quality of life; of individuals who live with mental illness and addiction. Did you have any prior work experience that dealt with mental health issues in our community before?
LW: I’ve played a role in some of Workman Arts recent events such as the Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival which is an event that aims to broaden peoples perspectives about mental health and addiction through films from all over the world. Anyone from the community is welcome to attend and engage in our post-screening panel discussions that invites leading experts from various disciplines to lead conversations about mental illness and addiction. On every panel we always invite the filmmaker, a mental health expert and someone with mental illness who discuss the film from their perspective.
LC: How has it changed your view about mental illness?
LW: Since I’ve started at Workman Arts, I’ve learned that having a mental illness is just one, minute portion of someone’s mind and capability. With a supportive environment they can not only participate actively and successfully in programs but also sometimes learn to overcome their illnesses with positive routines. Every day I am astounded and inspired by our members perseverance and dedication towards their practice and in awe of their incredible work.
LC: Workman Art + CAMH have had a long-standing partnership with one another: How closely do you work with current clients at CAMH + how do you reach out to artists that don’t live in the neighbourhood?
LW: When someone approaches us to become a member, we do not ask about their mental illness history or where they are receiving services from. This process is part of our best practices and enables our clients to feel comfortable as individuals. As for our outreach, we connect with various organizations within Toronto and a lot of our clients have heard about us by word of mouth. We currently have 250 members and are hoping that number will grow in the future.
LC: I noticed that part of the site redevelopment at CAMH includes space that is reserved for Workman Art’s new home. That will be so neat to see the program get such literal exposure; explain how you think this will further enrich the goals of Workman Arts!
LW: We are very excited about the plans for our new home! A state-of-the-art, fully accessible arts and learning facility on the revitalized campus of CAMH, current plans include an auditorium, storefront art gallery, artists’ studios, media arts studio, rehearsal spaces and administrative offices. This professional venue - in the heart of the Queen West Art District! - will help artists with mental illness and addiction refine their creative practice while engaging with the wider community.
LC: The construction won’t begin until 2016; so, what else can the community look forward to from Workman Arts? LW: We have a very exciting lineup for 2013. We just partnered with |FAT| and showcased our Mad Couture Catwalk installation which was a major success. The launch of our first poetry anthology, All That Is Real, will kick-start our Mental Health Week programming to be followed by a Rendezvous With Madness special edition of short films that we will be showing at Hart House, UofT in partnership with Mindful as part of their Mindfest event. Then our 13th Annual ‘Being Scene’ Juried Visual Arts Exhibition will be displayed at Hart House on May 9th. Finally, we will be screening the SXSW film, Fat Kid Rules the World, as part of Rendezvous with Madness. As for the summer and fall, we have a series of events that we're really looking forward to such as a Nuit Blanche installation and some outdoor film screenings that will continue to fight stigma and engage audiences.
LC: I think the Workman Arts program is so admirable, you must see how impactful this program is for all individuals that are involved. Can you describe a moment when you first began with Workman Art’s that you knew you were a part of something so special?
LW: After every term, the membership and training manager, Danica Brown, organizes a showcase that exhibits the work our members have produced. I attended my first showcase last December and was quite moved by the experience. Their work was engaging, progressive, funny and so incredibly honest. There is nothing pretentious about their art, it all comes from a place of raw truth. As an artist myself, this was really humbling for me and I feel so honoured to work for this company and look forward to a future of events.
LC: I appreciate you taking the time to share all the great work you are doing at Workman Arts. Any final words before you get back to improving individual’s mental health?
LW: I just want to say thank you to The Drake Hotel for hosting our All That is Real launch and I hope everyone can make it out to the event!
LC: Thanks so much Lauren. See you on Sunday!