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

Chilliwack Progress - 12/5/2018

A group of local artists has come together to raise funds for two charities and to shine a light on mental health.

The Chilliwack Visual Artists Association (CVAA) presents its newest show, One Foot by One Foot, and all proceeds from the sale of the artwork will go to Chilliwack Community Services and Communitas Supportive Care Society in Abbotsford.

But that's just half of what people will see.

The CVAA's inaugural Christmas fundraiser show will be displayed alongside Hear and See: Poetry and Art for Mental Health from Dec. 13 to Jan. 19 at the O'Connor Group Art Gallery in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.

"We're always looking for ways to partner with our community and this is a very special event," says Patricia Peters, acting president for CVAA.

All of the artwork in One Foot by One Foot is indeed that size.

The CVAA provided its members with the small, one-foot-square canvases. They've been encouraged to paint and submit up to three pieces each. There's a chance that not all of the work will fit on the walls of the gallery, but that's what they're hoping for — to have an excess of work. That way, when pieces are purchased as per the CVAA's pay-and-take-away system, new art will be hung in its place.

The CVAA artists have donated their time and talent to put the show together, and all of the work is unsigned and anonymous.

Why the anonymity?

"People might gravitate to grab a certain name, as opposed to just grabbing what grabs you," says Peters. "I like that it's not about anybody's name, it's about… equal opportunity."

Every piece will have the same price tag of $90 each, and 100 per cent of the proceeds will go to Chilliwack Community Services and Communitas Supportive Care Society.

"They (CVAA members) are all a bunch of sweet, sweet people. It's their gift, it's their voice to the community and to mental health. We're saying 'yes, we hear you, we support you,'" says Peters.

One Foot by One Foot will take up at least half of the wall space at the gallery while Hear and See: Poetry and Art for Mental Health by Communitas will fill the rest of the room.

Hear and See was first shown at the Reach Gallery in Abbotsford earlier this year. It's a show where 14 poets have been paired with 14 artists, and each artist has interpreted the poem they were given into something visual.

Communitas supports people who live with mental health challenges. The artwork and poetry is all done by people connected to Communitas: people they serve, staff, volunteers, donors and/or supporters.

Grace Robertson of Chilliwack is one of the poets in Hear and See. She has struggled with an eating disorder for eight years and writing poetry about her experience helps her process. She also hopes that those who read her poetry will learn from it.

"My hope in writing this poem is that people would see that eating disorders are real," says Robertson. "The pain is real. We are not horribly selfish people trying to ruin the beautiful bodies God gave us. We are hurting people trying desperately to find relief and worth in a world where we feel worthless."

The members of Communitas "have a message and a voice and they want to be heard, so we're echoing that," says Peters.

Much like the mental health community needs support, so does the CVAA for One Foot by One Foot.

"We can't do it on our own. We need our community of Chilliwack to come and purchase (this art). We could potentially be giving them $10,000 to help with their program," says Peters. "We need the community and mental health needs them."

She's very thankful for her fellow CVAA artists who are contributing to the mental health fundraiser.

"It's very generous of the artists and we appreciate their efforts. It just goes to show how interdependent we are in each other," says Peters. "That's how we're supposed to be, helping each other and working together. And what other time is more giving than Christmas?"

One Foot by One Foot by the CVAA and Hear and See: Poetry and Art for Mental Health by Communitas runs Dec. 13 to Jan 19 at the O'Connor Group Art Gallery in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. Opening reception is Saturday, Dec. 15 from 1 to 3 p.m. Poetry reading and artist talk is on Saturday, Jan. 12 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Gallery hours are Wednesdays to Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.