Artists and guests mingle during the opening reception for One Foot by One Foot. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress)

Art collaboration raises funds for mental health in Chilliwack, Abbotsford

More than $2,000 raised in support of mental health services offered in Chilliwack and Abbotsford

A fundraiser earlier this year in Chilliwack brought in more than $2,000 for two organizations in Chilliwack and Abbotsford in support of mental health services.

The two-in-one art show featuring One Foot By One Foot and Hear and See: Poetry and Art for Mental Health ran December and January at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre and brought in funds for both Chilliwack Community Services and Communitas Supportive Care Society in Abbotsford.

Hear and See: Poetry and Art for Mental Health, paired 14 poets with 14 artists with each poet writing a poem about their experiences with mental illness and an artist then interpreting that poem visually. The exhibit was presented by Communitas and the Chilliwack Visual Artists Association (CVAA).

“The purpose of the exhibit was to give poets and artists a voice and thereby removing the stigma that is so often associated with mental health challenges,” says Angelika Dawson, communications manager for Communitas and one of the curators of the exhibit.

In addition to this art exhibit, the CVAA held a fundraiser art exhibition to support mental health services. One Foot By One Foot was a series of one-foot-square canvases, painted by CVAA and community artists. These paintings were available for sale throughout the Hear and See exhibit as a “pay and take away.”

READ MORE: Chilliwack Visual Artists Association raises funds for mental health with art show

“This was the first time the CVAA had organized such an event and it was a good learning experience for us,” says Mary-Lee Merz, a member of the CVAA executive. “We didn’t know how it would unfold but I would say it was a success.”

The fundraiser, together with the exhibit itself, connected the community to the gallery, bringing people in who may have never been there before. For both Dawson and Merz, a highlight of the exhibit was the Poetry Reading and Artist Talk, held near the end of the exhibit’s run at the gallery.

“The event gave people a safe place to talk about their creative process,” Merz says. “It was powerful because people shared their struggles and vulnerabilities, which was the source of their creativity. It was an example of the healing aspects of creativity.”

Dawson agrees. “Hearing about the creative process behind the work and the stories that connected the poets and artists was deeply moving.”

Proceeds from the fundraiser supported mental health services offered by Chilliwack Community Services as well as Communitas raising over $1000 for each organization.

”Community funds raised by community members have impact far beyond the value of the dollars raised. These financial gifts help us build new awareness and support from the community,” says Karyn Santiago, CEO for Communitas. “We are deeply grateful for the work of CVAA and their commitment to furthering the conversation around mental wellness in Chilliwack.”

The success of the fundraiser was energizing and the CVAA hopes to have opportunity to do something like this in the future.

“I just want to thank Communitas again for bringing a new level of artistic expression to the O’Connor Group Art Gallery,” Merz says. “I believe all who participated benefited from this joint endeavor. I believe we would like to do this again in the future.”

For more information about this exhibit and the next exhibit planned by Communitas, visit CommunitasCare.com. To learn more about CVAA, visit oconnorgroupartgallery.com.

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