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Seeing Being Scene


Steven Lewis stands in front of his piece, “Waiting” at the Being Scene art exhibit

With thanks to Steven Lewis, Visual Artist in Residence at Workman Arts

Variety. Passion. Honesty.

Steven Lewis uses these three simple, succinct words to describe the latest artwork featured at Workman Arts’ Being Scene – an annual juried exhibit that is currently on display at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. Steven currently serves as the Visual Artist in Residence at the multidisciplinary art and mental health organization, of which he’s been a member for four years.

“Workman Arts is an organization that provides a place for people who want to re-establish or initiate their art career or practice, who have received services for mental illness or addiction. It’s a great place to re-connect and re-establish oneself and one’s practice. It’s a very inclusive and well run organization.”

Drawing from his experience as an artist and teacher, Steven was part of the trio of judges that included David Liss, Artistic Director and Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA), and Adelina Vlass, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Together, they decided which pieces would be on display during this year’s exhibition. “There’s a wide variety of work. The thing that comes through is the integrity of the artist. You can see a passion or honesty with their work. And then it comes down to the technical skill as well. It’s the combination of all of this that allows for a great piece of work to be chosen.”

But the daunting task of making these final decisions wasn’t easy. “You can’t quantify art, and I’m quite certain that some pieces may have fallen through the cracks that on another day might have been picked. With some of these pieces, you might see someone working out some anger, or are working out some conflict within themselves.”

“There is a large component of people trying to express their mental health experiences through art. It’s another way for people trying to understand themselves, while also trying to convey it so that others can understand as well.”

But the quality of the submitted work is undeniable – something that Steven has noticed over the time he’s been involved in Workman Arts. “The continued success of the organization is attracting some very good artists. And having them on board allows us all to rise together.” As we discuss the exhibit further, Steven is quick to point out that while mental illness or addiction is what brings these works together, it is not what defines the people behind these works. “They’re artists first.”

Stepping into the 2nd floor of the Gladstone Hotel exudes a certain sense of comfort. Unlike many art galleries clad in cold cement floors and stark white walls, the venue and the works housed on its walls perfectly illustrate Workman Arts’ goal – to make art accessible to the public while promoting a greater understanding of mental health.

And they’re doing so with variety, passion and honesty.

The exhibit is open daily, from noon until 5pm until October 15.

To learn more about the artwork on display, Workman Arts member Catherine Jones conducted audio interviews with the artists. Visitors can access the interviews at the gallery by using a smartphone to scan the QR codes adjacent to the works, or you can listen to them all here:

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