News / Calgary

ACAD students create exhibit to get Calgarians talking about mental health

Each year, the Hear/d Residency program at the Alberta College of Art and Design chooses a new theme centred around mental health for their residents to explore

Ahead of their upcoming Hear/d Residency exhibition, which focused on the themes of recovery and healing, Haley Craw (left) and Ryan Danny Owen pose in their studio at ACAD on March 22, 2017.

JENNIFER FRIESEN/FOR METRO

Ahead of their upcoming Hear/d Residency exhibition, which focused on the themes of recovery and healing, Haley Craw (left) and Ryan Danny Owen pose in their studio at ACAD on March 22, 2017.

Art often provokes uncomfortable conversations, so it’s no surprise there were some heavy moments in preparation for an upcoming exhibition in Calgary that explores themes of recovery and healing.

The three month, bi-annual Hear/d Residency program at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) aims to create meaningful discussion about mental health and student well-being on post-secondary campuses.

The program wraps up with a three week exhibition curated by two student mentors, who also facilitate the residency.

“This year has been kind of intense, it’s probably been some of the heaviest conversations I’ve had in my post-secondary experience,” said Ryan Danny Owen, a fourth-year drawing major at ACAD and one of this year’s mentors.

He said it’s been empowering to see people opening doors within themselves that were previously closed.

“We’re finding people are much more comfortable talking about things they haven’t felt particularly comfortable talking about before the residency,” he said. 

Ryan Danny Owen and a piece he created in last year’s residency program. Inspired by personal experience, he created a bouquet that dropped deeply personal notes from the blooms as they died.

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Ryan Danny Owen and a piece he created in last year’s residency program. Inspired by personal experience, he created a bouquet that dropped deeply personal notes from the blooms as they died.

Haley Craw, a fourth-year drawing major at ACAD and this year’s second mentor, said her experience as a resident helped her approach her own work with more vulnerability.

“When you’re really genuine to yourself and open up, you can be really amazed at how positively people will respond,” Craw said.

“It’s been really good to go from being an artist to also facilitating discussions around other people’s work, and focusing more on how I can have a dialogue with others,” she added.

Fair warning: the artist statements, displayed beside each piece, will be a direct window into the creator’s headspace, according to Craw.

“I think a lot of people will find themselves in those statements and in the work,” she said.

“Hopefully it will get them to question their own health and wellness and the programs in their colleges, or wherever they’re from.”

Owen said while the show itself is “amazing,” the conversations and reflection inspired by experiencing it are the most important part.

“There’s a notion that (healing) is an end goal, but we wanted to focus on the idea that it’s not over – it’s something that constantly starts again and moves forward,” he said.

The Hear/d Residency exhibition, supported by the Alberta Campus Mental Health Innovation fund, launches at ACAD on March 30 and runs until April 12.

Haley Craw and her work from last year’s residency program. She created a chain (which extends to the floor and beyond) of her mother’s lingerie to explore how she healed from traditional and religious views about sexuality.

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Haley Craw and her work from last year’s residency program. She created a chain (which extends to the floor and beyond) of her mother’s lingerie to explore how she healed from traditional and religious views about sexuality.

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