The Breastfeeding Art Expo is a collaborative project between Kelowna Community Resources and Interior Health. (Sheri Regnier photo)

The Breastfeeding Art Expo is a collaborative project between Kelowna Community Resources and Interior Health. (Sheri Regnier photo)

VISAC; Educating and empowering through art

Trail is the only local stop on the Breastfeeding Art Expo’s six-city tour of Interior B.C.

Beautiful, empowering, tasteful, thought-provoking, and a truly amazing project.

All words used to describe the Breastfeeding Art Expo, VISAC’s first exhibit of 2018 opening tonight.(Jan. 12)

Five years in the making, the vast art project is a collective expression from men and women ages 10 to 87, that embraces all forms of media from sculpture and collage to paintings, indigenous artwork, photography, poetry, dance and film.

“The Breastfeeding Art Expo is a Canadian one-of-a-kind,”says Karen Graham, principal curator and Interior Health public health dietician. “But I hope it will lead the way for on-going art and health projects in our global communities.”

There’s so much to see and absorb from the showcase, which by “influencing change through art,” seeks to inspire creativity, facilitate understanding and support for breastfeeding, and build a sense of community.

There’s 15 community art projects, like “Revealing Truth,” hailing from Nelson’s lead artist Erica Konrad and nine students from L.V. Rogers Secondary in partnership with La Leche League Canada and Apple Tree Maternity. From Thompson Cariboo Shuswap, the Okanagan and the Kootenays, the expo brought together over 200 project participants, 35 community partners and 65 independent art works including “Bare Essence,” a lino on paper piece from J.L. Crowe art instructor, Joost Winckers.

And Trail is the only local stop on a six-city tour across interior British Columbia.

“We at VISAC are so excited and grateful to be presenting this body of work,” says Artistic Director Kristen Renn. “It is one of the largest exhibitions we have ever had in the gallery, maybe even in Trail itself.”

There are very few large bodies of artwork traveling around B.C. at any given time, especially one that has such a community-focused theme that includes so many different artists, mediums, and styles.

“This show is a wonderful chance to educate yourself about a topic that is so common, yet hardly talked about,” Renn said.

“Art usually chooses such topics as subject, as art is one of great communicators of culture.”

Breastfeeding has, traditionally, been mostly viewed as women-centric . This expo aims to open doors and develop social connectiveness, so it’s not just for women, those with children, or art lovers.

“This show is for everyone in the community, and this is the best chance for those living in the West Kootenay to see it,” Renn shared. “As Trail is also home to the regional hospital and many other health care providers, we felt it was a perfect match to host the Breastfeeding Art Expo here.”

The show is very informative and Renn sends a special welcome to nurses, classrooms, support groups, and those that have, or may one day have, a connection to breastfeeding.

“This show is worth the trip to downtown Trail, come find us and enjoy an art rich experience,” she added.

The public reception for “Breastfeeding Art Expo – Influencing Change through Art,” runs from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12, in downtown Trail’s VISAC Gallery.

“We expect a big turn out for this show’s opening reception,” Renn noted.

“Guests of the gallery will be welcomed with all mediums of work around breastfeeding from artists all over Interior B.C., and there are some interactive components to the show. We invite guests to engage in conversation and ask lots of questions. “

To help interpret artworks and information, both art and medical professionals will take part in the opening.

Curators and artists will talk briefly throughout the evening, and a viewing room will be set up for guests to watch videos created about the different group art projects.

“As always, the VISAC Gallery is a safe space and gathering place for community,” Renn said. “And at this event, we want to be sure to let those that are in need of a place to feed their babies downtown, know that they are welcome at the gallery during open hours.”

The exhibit will remain at the Trail gallery until March 2, and will be available for viewing Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

When Karen Graham first approached VISAC about its interest and ability to host the Breastfeeding Art Expo, Renn says she was very intrigued not only by the opportunity to present new work by a number of Kootenay and B.C. artists, but also by the content and overall goal of the project.

“As a community gallery, we are constantly listening and trying to gain insight as to the interests and what is important to our community,” Renn said.

“Because of this, VISAC can be a little more open than some in its exhibition schedule, and stay relevant to current interests and opportunities.”

The issues and discussions around breastfeeding are not lost on our local area residents, she emphasized.

“And we know this project coming to the city is a very unique opportunity for Trail to host a wonderfully diverse body of work and a topic that would interest many.”

Renn expressed a special thank you to Karen Graham for all the professional work and communication it took over the past year to bring the expo to Trail.

She concluded, “(And) to the VISAC Board of Directors for being open-minded and committed to supporting the visual arts in the Greater Trail area, and to all the volunteers and VISAC members whom help make every show happen.”

The Breastfeeding Art Expo is a collaborative project between KCR (Kelowna Community Resources) and Interior Health. Project sponsors include the B.C. Arts Council, First Nations Health Authority, The Hamber Foundation, Interior Health, the Central Okanagan Foundation, and the Vancouver Foundation.