Morning Star Staff
Women have been breastfeeding their babies forever but there has never been an art exhibit focusing only on the beauty and meaning of breastfeeding.
“This exhibit is a celebration of the wonder, peace and nurturing of breastfeeding and some sadness, remembering and hope for the future,” said Karen Graham, a public health dietician with Interior Health, one of the originators of the Breastfeeding Art Expo, which has a free opening reception Thursday at the Vernon Public Art Gallery and Gallery Vertigo.
“As far as I have been able to find out, there has never been another project like this anywhere in the world. So many people worked together to make this happen.”
The event features work from new and well-known artists in community and independent projects, including photography, video and a variety of mediums.
Graham brought her idea to Interior Health manager of population health Heather Deegan three years ago and they started discussions with a steering committee of representatives of community organizations and artists. Sponsors include the Vancouver Foundation and 35 community partners.
“We did not envision that this project would grow so large. We put out a call for artists and we didn’t know how many women and men would respond and what they wanted to contribute. We have 15 communities involved, with 200 participants, including 65 independent artists, expressing the theme in art of all kinds — poetry, dance, pottery and sculpture,” said Graham. “It was exciting to see the passion of the community involved in an arts project. The youngest participant was 10 years old and the other participants are of all ages and backgrounds. Each piece tells its own story in a different way.
“We had a really amazing opening in Kelowna. This is a phenomenal show. We have had nothing but positive comments. People from across Canada are contacting us about how they can set up an arts/health project. This could be used for any health topic and we are writing a teachers’ guide and how-to guide to tell what we have learned.”
Graham said that while breastfeeding is now encouraged and recognized for its many benefits for babies, mothers, families and the community, mothers who can’t breastfeed, for any reason, should not feel bad. They can provide many of breastfeeding’s benefits, such as skin-to-skin contact, through their choices of feeding in other ways.
Area partners are The Enderby and District Community Resource Centre, Okanagan Indian Band, Runaway Moon Theatre Arts Society, Splatsin Health Services (Splatsin First Nations), Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society, Vernon Breastfeeding Café, and Vernon First Nations Friendship Centre.
This is the first joint show for the Vernon Public Art Gallery and Gallery Vertigo, and Graham thanks VPAG curator Lubos Culen and Vertigo curator Brigitte Red for their support and cooperation.
The Breastfeeding Art Expo will go on to shows in Southern Interior Centres, ending in the fall of 2018. The works, some of which are for sale or have been donated, will be on permanent display in community spaces or businesses, or returned to the artists.
A free opening reception for the Breastfeeding Art Expo takes place Thursday at the Vernon Public Art Gallery from 6 to 8 p.m. and at Gallery Vertigo from 7 to 9 p.m. Times are staggered for those who wish to visit both galleries, and snacks and beverages will be available. The expo runs until Sept. 28. For more information, see www.breastfeedingartexpo.ca.