New art piece in Guelph aims to spark conversation around addiction, opioid crisis

Crisis Phone 2020 is a new art installation outside the Guelph Public Library. The artist and city councillor, Mike Salisbury, hopes it sparks conversations around the issue of addiction and the opioid crisis in Canada.

Artist and city councillor hopes people will take time to interact with piece

Guelph councilor and artist Mike Salisbury hopes a new interactive art installation outside the Guelph Library on Norfolk Street sparks more conversation around the opioid crisis in Guelph-Wellington. (Kate Bueckert/ CBC)

A Guelph city councillor is hoping to raise more awareness to the issue of addiction and the opioid crisis through a new art installation.

Mike Salisbury, who overcame his struggle with addiction more than 20 years ago, created a sculpture called Crisis Phone 2020 in hopes to spark a broader conversation in the community.

The piece is installed in front of the main branch of the Guelph Public Library.

"[The library] is sort of the cultural and intellectual centre of the city," he said. "It's also a place in our city that deals with addiction and this crisis front line."

The sculpture is made up of a large, re-purposed phone booth with a rotary phone in the middle. The piece also has quotes all throughout the booth written in black and white ink.

"I think the piece is quite positive, but in essence, the initial reaction to it is both something that is fairly negative, but also something that is fairly accurate, which is the unanswerable phone line," Salisbury said.

The piece has quotes of hope and negativity all throughout meant to show the controversy of the ongoing opioid crisis. (Kate Bueckert/ CBC)

He said he switched the payphone with an old rotary home phone as a way to "bring the issue home."

"The idea of the home phone, you would normally reach out and call for help. It's all around the imagery of the phone being a lifeline," Salisbury explained.

He adds the quotes in white are messages of hope, while the quotes written in black are negative to represent the controversy around the issue.

The piece also has a blank phonebook, where Salisbury says anyone can pick up and write a message.

"There are people who are grieving with this issue that don't have the ability to share," he said.

Salisbury said he hopes the piece will inspire people to reflect on how there's more than one side to the issue of addiction.

"Art isn't going to solve the problem or save the day, but it begins the conversation and that's really the most we can hope for," he said.

The piece incorporated a blank phone book that Salisbury says he hopes people take time to fill out. (Kate Bueckert/ CBC)

Guelph, Waterloo region mark Overdose Awareness Day

People in Guelph are gathering at St. George's Square Monday to mark International Overdose Awareness Day.

The gathering will honour people who have recently died of overdoses. 

There have been 14 deaths so far in 2020, compared to seven deaths in all of 2019, according to the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy.

In Waterloo region, there had been 54 overdose deaths at the beginning of August, compared to 47 in the same time period in 2019, according to the Waterloo Region Integrated Drug Strategy (WRIDS).

The WRIDS plans to hold an online panel on Wednesday that will go over what the community is doing to combat  overdoses.


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