When a Toronto non-profit put out the call for Canadian artists to illustrate their experiences with mental health, they didn’t expect the selection process to be so difficult.
“We got an overwhelming response,” Twentytwenty Arts Executive Director Megan Kee said — 350 submissions, to be exact, of which only 20 could make the cut. “There were so many good works,” she said.
On Nov. 19, those 20 pieces will launch as “Life on the Line,” a collection of posters to be displayed on the TTC subway until Jan. 6, 2019.
The artwork will also be for sale on the online TTC Shop, with 80 per cent of the proceeds going to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Toronto Holiday Gift Program, and 20 per cent going to the artists themselves.
The Holiday Gift Program delivers gifts and necessities to underprivileged children, recent immigrants, women in shelters and other at-risk people, Kee said.
“Historically, even though we’ve come a long way, there’s a major disparity between how physical and mental health is viewed, represented and funded,” she said. “Because of the stigma, people have often lived in silence and been denied appropriate care, so we really want to start having these important conversations about mental health, so that people lose that fear of reaching out.”
The non-profit has done one show before, a February 2017 exhibition called “Never Real and Always True,” which was displayed at Toronto’s Northern Contemporary Gallery and also asked artists for their own interpretation of mental health. Proceeds from that show went to Toronto Distress Centres.
This time, Kee said, she wanted to do something bigger.
“Being a user of the TTC subway every single day, having stared at so many posters day in and day out, I realized, OK, this is a great place to be able to do this,” she said.
Twentytwenty doesn’t have a relationship with the TTC itself, Kee said — just the online shop. The organization instead partnered with advertising company Pattison Outdoor, which will place the posters on the subway line at a discounted rate.
“The interesting thing about art is that it has this unique ability to be able to convey perhaps feelings, emotions, that cannot be conveyed through words or otherwise,” Kee said. “So it makes it a really unique medium in being able to have that conversation about mental health that is so difficult to convey to people, that causes stigma.”
Jack Hauen is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @jackhauen