A former Membertou resident is taking her master course assignment to the next level with an art exhibit that examines the links between colonialism and mental health.
Kayla Rudderham is a student of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design’s (NSCAD) master of arts in education program. One of her courses, Radical Curating, examines the art of selecting art with an assignment to choose a topic that addresses a social issue or some sort of activism. While curating is a term you hear all the time these days in everything from menus to clothing, it has more to do with the selection of art, how to assemble it, catalogue it, manage, present and display artistic and cultural collections. For Rudderham and her partner Alexia Mitchell, the choice was a natural one.
“My partner and I decided that mental health is a really big issue that faces the Nova Scotia community so we started thinking about how colonization has an impact on more than just land and economics - it’s more so about the ways that people are thinking and the ways that people think about helping themselves and helping themselves through their art practice. We came up with this topic based on our own personal experiences because we’re two people diagnosed with mental illnesses so we thought this was a really important topic to talk about.”
The exhibit is called, “Down To The Wick,” and runs until November 29 at NSCAD’s Treaty Space Gallery in Halifax. The Cape Breton Post caught up with Rudderham while she and Mitchell were setting up the exhibit.
“We’re still setting up right now so everything is all over place,” she laughed, adding everything would be placed by the time of the exhibit was scheduled to open on Nov. 15. “But basically we hope to bring like themes of wellness and accessibility and culturally appropriate practises to the forefront.”
The exhibit will feature the work of five artists and will include a series of workshops and events surrounding the exhibit. The exhibit, like the subject matter, isn’t limited to one narrow focus, Rudderham says.
“Colonialism isn’t just about land and economics,” says Rudderham. “Our minds and ways of being have been compromised. Regardless of one’s culture or background, there are societal pressures relating to constant progression in the realms of education, physical abilities, work, economics and relationships. These pressures are hard to ignore and our main methods of escaping these troubling issues such as social media are filled with messages that not only reinforce but also amplify the colonialist undertones of our collective community. Even if we wished to separate ourselves from these themes we are left with the residual consequences that colonialism leaves in its wake.”
And if a person tries to look after themselves, it’s seen as self-indulgent which can place people in further danger of burnout.
“The pressure we put on ourselves is unhealthy and we need a systemic change - people are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of perceived responsibilities that are imposed on our society - this issue can lead to anxiety disorders or depression which goes largely undiagnosed and untreated. These issues are exasperated by the current doctors shortage we are experiencing in Nova Scotia as well as other factors, like stigmatization and colonial frameworks for mental health.”
Rudderham wants to highlight the importance of shifting from a medical model to a more social model that looks at the whole person rather than their diagnosis.
Events associated with "Down To The Wick:"
- November 15, 5 p.m., Treaty Space Gallery, NSCAD Port Campus, Opening Night, featuring artists, curators, NSCAD faculty, staff and students. A smudging and opening prayer will take place.
- November 21, 7-8 p.m., Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Gallery 5), Bring to Light panel discussion on wellness, accessibility, and the importance of bringing Indigenous and western practices together.
- November 22, 5-8 p.m., Art Bar +Projects, Break the Isolation, an opportunity to meet and converse with new people in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
- November 25, 6-8 p.m., NSCAD Port Campus, Creation Medication, heat bag creating, button making and rock painting.
- November 26, 7 p.m., NSCAD Bell Theatre (Fountain Campus), screening of Crazywise, a movie that explores what can be learned from people around the world who have turned their psychological crisis into a positive, transformative experience.
- November 29, 5-7 p.m., Closing Reception, Treaty Space Gallery, Port Campus.