RMG shines a light on mental illness

The RMG hosts RMG Fridays on the first Friday of every month centred around a specific theme. December's theme is mental health. Photo credit: Jasper Myers

Oshawa’s Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) is putting a spotlight on mental health at its monthly Friday night gathering of art and music.

The RMG is hosting its December edition of RMG Fridays this week in partnership with Durham Mental Health Services (DMHS).

RMG Fridays is a free art exhibit hosted on the first Friday of every month, centred around a specific theme. This month’s event, called Shine a Light, focuses on mental health.

“The idea behind Shine a Light, RMG Fridays event, is to kind of illuminate the struggles and encounters that members of our community have with mental health and wellness,” says Sam Powless, manager of community and volunteer development at RMG. “We want to kind of show the ways in which artists and artisans use art and their creative process to aid in their journeys of mental wellness.”

A visitor checks out an exhibit at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. Photo credit: Jasper Myers

Shine a Light was planned by Powless’ predecessor, Carla Sinclair, after she spoke with some local artists about their struggles with mental health, according to Powless.

Every RMG Fridays event has a community partner table set up in the front lobby, and the gallery reached out to DMHS for this one.

“This month we figured with kind of talking about mental health that the Durham Mental Health Services would be a good partner to have,” says Powless, adding this will help educate people about DMHS and its services.

David Clarke, coordinator of communications and training at DMHS, says they’re pleased RMG is hosting this event.

“We’re delighted to be guests, and we’re delighted that Robert McLaughlin Gallery is, as they say, shining a light on the issue of mental health,” says Clarke. “We’re going to answer any questions that people might have about mental illness, about recovery and about our services.”

December, and the winter season, can be a challenging time for people because of the emphasis on positive feelings and connectedness associated with the holidays, according to Clarke. So he says the timing of this event is excellent.

I think there is a good portion of people who experience mental health issues, who express themselves creatively, says Clarke.

“This is such good thing to draw attention to that and to show the creativity that can sometimes even come out of experiences of struggle,” says Clarke.

Shine a Light will feature artists from all walks of life, like different ages, backgrounds and socio-economic experiences, says Powless. He says there will be different mediums of art on display Friday and the art will focus on a variety of mental health issues.

“It’s not as simple as just dealing with depression or anxiety or stuff like that. But like post-traumatic stress disorder, grief, so it’s a very wide variety,” Powless says. “I’m pretty proud to say that. We’re exploring it from a lot of different angles.”

The event takes places Friday, Dec. 7, from 7-10 p.m. and admission is free.