Oct. 6, 2017

Recognition ... Validation ... Reassurance ...

Art instructor Dick Averns brings art and mental health together at UFlourish
Workshop art, If Only You Saw, by Sandra Kadhim.

Workshop art, If Only You Saw, by Sandra Kadhim.

Drawing from direct personal experience, Department of Art instructor Dick Averns’ art practice examines the visibility of mental health on and off campus. “I received a lot of help from counsellors during my undergrad and after, but it wasn't until I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome years later that I was able to access the help and treatment I really needed,” says Averns. “Since then I've followed the establishment of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, undertaken volunteer work and gradually found the confidence to address mental wellness through my art.”

During his two-hour UFlourish workshop on Oct. 10, Recognition … Validation … Reassurance … Art + Mental Wellness, Averns will address one key question: How do you create a framework for mental wellness? An informative presentation on art and mental health will help to lay the groundwork for this supportive and engaging session where faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars will be encouraged to create a framework for mental wellness through collage, drawing and text. Artistic outcomes from the workshop will be eligible for display in pop-up exhibitions that will be held with collaborating community groups. Some works will also be selected for display citywide as public art on billboards, transit station posters, and interior panels on buses and trains.

Averns’ workshop for UFlourish was originally presented as part of a Public Art and Social Practice workshop series presented by the City of Calgary’s Public Art Program and the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at the Alberta College of Art + Design in March, 2017. He invited community members to explore and narrate their experiences to improve both personal and collective mental health. After receiving an award from the City of Calgary Public Art and Calgary Arts Development to continue his work, Averns looks forward to bringing these key issues to campus.

“People living in mental distress often feel invisible: lacking in recognition without validation and in need of reassurance. The title of this project turns that around, as a prototype framework for mental wellness,” Averns explains. “I conceived of this structure at a former workplace that had high levels of toxicity, stress and staff turnover. In comparison, I’m now receiving support through the Faculty of Arts and Office of the Dean, and my department head, to undertake additional service to improve campus and community mental well-being.”

UFlourish is a series of events and activities that help build positive mental health in students, faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars at the University of Calgary, hosted by the SU Wellness CentreHuman Resources and supported by the Campus Mental Health Strategy. UFlourish incorporates the five factors of flourishing, based on the research of Dr. Corey Keyes. The five factors are learning, playing, interacting, connecting and helping. By engaging in these factors on a regular basis, you can increase positive mental health, despite the presence or absence of mental illness.