Real people, real stories, on loan for discussion

Is it possible to challenge prejudice through one conversation with a stranger?

If you ask the creators of the Human Library™ they’ll tell you that it is in fact one of the most effective ways.

FemFest2017 and the Winnipeg Public Library are proud to present The Human Library™ right here in Winnipeg.

“We need a space for dialogue about tough issues that we wouldn’t address in the supermarket”, says Ronni Abergel, a Human Library creator.

“We’re navigating through diversity by putting people in boxes. We don’t go back to the box and check if what’s in the box is in accordance with the label we put on that box,” he continued, “I do it also. I do it every day. I do it with the speakers, I do it with people I meet. I gather a little bit of information and I use that information to put them in a box.”

Abergel spoke in Groningen at a Tedx talk, “You can go to the Human Library and challenge your own stereotypes, challenge your prejudices. You have to be a little brave because you have to fess up. You have to admit to yourself that you’re thinking things about other people-probably things that you shouldn’t be thinking, but you’re doing that for your own comfort.”

The local Human Books come from all backgrounds and ways of life, but they all have one thing in common, for different reasons they are often subjected to stereotyping or prejudice. Imagine getting to sit down with some of these amazing human books:

 

Nigel Bart

Book Title: Whale Calling and the Purpose of a Rabbit

Nigel Bart - HeadshotNigel tells his story from early childhood to present about living with schizophrenia, dealing with the additional issues that come with mental illness, and recovering as the successful founder of Artbeat Studio.

 

Sadie Phoenix Lavoie

Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie - HeadshotBook Title: Resilience through art and literature

Resilience. Decolonization. Matriarchy. How do we bring matriarchal principles back to the Indigenous world?

 

Razak Iyal

Book Title: The Struggle of Refugees

Refugees are stranded around the world, struggling to maintain hope. Razak arrived in Canada as a refugee, lost his fingers to frostbite, and has overcome one of the biggest challenges of his life. This is a story about human rights.

 

Lara Rae - Headshot_smallerLara Rae

Book Title: Becoming Lara

A Life in Progress. Lara Rae is a proud transgender woman and a writer and comedian. She is an artistic director who uses creativity and life experiences to promote understanding not just for herself, but for other marginalized people.

 

 

 

RACHEL SMITH headshot cropped for blogRachel Smith

Book Title: Finding the Gift: How to Face Life’s Challenges

Most people do not expect to be a caregiver when they are in their mid-twenties. Rachel’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease then later, Lewy Body Dementia. Rachel’s hope is that by sharing her story she can help others with their own challenges.

 

The Human Library takes place on the second floor of the Millennium Library during these times:
    Thursday, September 21: 4-8 pm

    Friday, September 22: 1-4 pm

    Saturday, September 23: 1-4 pm

This is just a sample of what will be available to readers. Click here for more information, updates on additional books and details on how to reserve a Human Book visit.

 

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Art as a Way Out

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There are so many amazing stories about the healing power of art! Sarasvàti Productions’ new play script Breaking Through was created with this in mind. Our artists worked with people with lived experience, caregivers, mental health organizations, and the general public to collect experiences of mental health. It made sense as we prepared for staged readings of the play, to also gather the perspectives of artists in our community who live with mental health issues. We’ve been excited to interview artists about their experience with mental health, the stigmas they have encountered and the unique role art plays in their lives.

Quinn Whitlaw is a Winnipeg-based visual artist. He works mainly with ink and pencils and has been been creating more than ever over the past four months during his residency at ArtBeat Studio. It was only this past winter that Quinn re-discovered his love of drawing while he was in the hospital in recovery and treatment for Major Depressive Disorder and anxiety.

“I think there’s a lot of negative stigma around mental health and addiction problems. They really, really go hand in hand for a lot of people” said Quinn. He remembers feeling depression and anxiety beginning in grade 8. “I wouldn’t want to tell my friends because I wouldn’t want them to know about it. I wouldn’t want them feeling bad for me.”

Trying to cope has lead him to addiction problems throughout the years.

“People will look at someone that has mental health issue but is using drugs to deal with it and they’ll just think ‘he’s a druggie’ and ‘he’s no good’, when in actuality that’s the person’s only way out–the only way out of what they’re feeling ” said Quinn.

Quinn remembers liking to draw in grade 10. He hadn’t done it much since then, but Quinn took it up again while he was in the hospital because he had time on his hands. One of the hospital workers told Quinn about ArtBreat Studio, and he thought it sounded like a great idea.

ArtBeat Studio is a recovery-oriented program that is mental health consumer-initiated, and peer directed. It’s a community-based studio that accommodates artists whose mental health, social connection, and income make it impracticable for them, individually, to acquire a work space where they might advance their artistic technique safely and securely. Over a six-month period, nine artists are supported and mentored in managing their own workplace, production, and marketing within the operating parameters of the studio. Quinn is currently one of nine artists doing their residency at ArtBeat Studio.

“I think being an artist has given me a way out”, said Quinn, “when I feel down or am having a tough time I know that if I just sit down and start drawing everything will take a step back and I can focus on what I’m doing for once.”

We’ve spoken to a number of artists who describe creating and performing as therapeutic. For Quinn, drawing helps with his anxiety and depression,” Doing art puts me in a place where I can sit back and relax for a bit, which I can’t normally do” said Quinn. “You get a good feeling when you finish a piece of art. It feels good to accomplish something.”

Quinn is preparing to showcase his work this summer in ArtBeat Studio’s public exhibition. Although Quinn is looking forward to exhibiting his work, he admits that the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety prevents him from being more open about it.

“I still don’t really talk to anyone about it except for my doctor”, said Quinn.  “It’s hard to come out and talk about it because you never know who’s going to understand and who’s going to tell you ‘just suck it up’”, said Quinn. “It’s hard because people don’t always understand, and at the same time you can’t expect them to know unless they’ve dealt with it themselves”, explained Quinn. “ I think the stigma is around being sad all the time, not having as much friends, not going out and living life like you should—which sometimes is true when you’re in such a down spot, but not all the time. There are little glimmers of light that come out once and a while, right?”

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To find out more about ArtBeat Studio and their residency program visit artbeatstudio.ca. To see Quinn Whitlaw’s work in the flesh, and take in the work of all resident artists check out the exhibition at ArtBeat Studio from July 21- July 30.

Get your tickets to the staged reading of Sarasvati’s Breaking Through today!
May 22 & 28 at 3pm
May 24-27 at 7 pm
Asper Centre for Theatre and Film