Transit gallery using art to arrive at destination of mental health awareness

via CBC

If you take public transit in Calgary, you are in for a free art show over the next few weeks, and it's got a connection to a topic that is near and dear for a University of Calgary art instructor.

"I have witnessed a lot of anxiety in the classroom so it seemed like a natural fit to do this project," Dick Averns told The Homestretch.

"Visual art as a medium has the opportunity to use images rather than words which have immediacy to them. Buses are used by all ages across all demographics for work and recreation, so you have a ready-made audience. If you turn a bus into an art gallery and deck it out with 18 different artworks, you are going to catch a large population."

The project, Recognition… Validation… Reassurance…, hit the road this week with artwork added to buses, trains and billboards. More than 130 average Calgarians aged 16 to late 70s created 189 pieces of art.

"There are collages, drawings, text-based art, visualizations, depictions. There are articulations of frames of mind towards improving individual and collective mental health," Averns said.

And it's personal to him.

"I was diagnosed well into adulthood with Tourette syndrome, and had dealt with a lot of misdiagnosis throughout my life. Once I was finally diagnosed, it radically improved my mental wellness," the art instructor of 15 years explained.

"It's pretty clear there is an epidemic of mental health challenges within our community. In post-secondary, rates of anxiety and depression are around 60 to 70 per cent during four years. Less than half will seek professional help for that."

Art and mental health have some beautiful potential connections, he said.