Nuit Blanche exhibit inspired by York professor’s book

A book by Geoffrey Reaume, professor of critical disability studies in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, is the inspiration for a project that will be featured as part of the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche extravaganza in Toronto on Saturday, Oct. 3. 

The exhibit, The Story Behind the Wall, is a mixed-media and cross-disciplinary art-making project taken on by artists of the Workman Arts Project of Ontario. Six artists from the project chose six former patients from the Toronto Hospital for the Insane as depicted in Reaume’s book Remembrance of Patients Past: Patient Life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940 (see YFile, Feb. 13, 2007). Their goal was to create figurative sculptures to creatively and expressively tell the stories of these individual patients. 

Right: Geoffrey Reaume, right, gives a tour of the wall surrounding the Queen Street Mental Health Centre. The wall was built over 100 years ago by unpaid psychiatric patients. Photo by Graeme Bacque.

Reaume’s carefully conducted research for the book took him through the Archives of Ontario and was an attempt to understand the patients as people first rather than as a diagnostic label. Working from Reaume’s place of respect, the six artists from the Workman Arts Project selected six patients from the book and further investigated these individuals by relating to them as people, artists, and, as people who have experience with mental health as well as with the confines of the psychiatric system and the prejudice of society.

Inspired by a conceptual installation at the Museum Het Dolhuys in Amsterdam, Workman Arts will take this unique opportunity to transform the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH) space located at 1001 Queen St. W. in Toronto. The site, which is the former home of the Workman Arts office and of the Workman Theatre for 20 years, will be converted into an exhibit site as part of Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche celebrations, which run from sunset at 6:55pm on Saturday, Oct. 3, to sunrise on Sunday, Oct. 4. The exhibit will be one of the last official events at the Queen Street West location because it will be demolished later this year as part of the CAMH site redevelopment.       

The Workman Arts Project of Ontario facilitates aspiring, emerging and established artists with mental illness and addiction issues to develop and refine their art form through its arts training programs, public performance and exhibit opportunities, and partnering with other art organizations. As well, Workman Arts promotes a greater public understanding of mental illness and addiction through the creation, presentation and discussion of artistic media.

For more information on the exhibit, contact the Workman Arts Project office at 416-583-4339.