Kitchener-Waterloo

Trauma on display at Kitchener City Hall art exhibit

Artists involved in a new exhibit at Kitchener City Hall hope to raise the profile of trauma services that are available in Waterloo Region.

Exhibit features work by local artists, depicting recovery from traumatic experiences.

Artists involved in a new exhibit at Kitchener City Hall hope to raise the profile of trauma services that are available in Waterloo Region.

The exhibit, which was launched Thursday night by the Waterloo Region Trauma Service Initiative, features work by local artists, depicting recovery from traumatic experiences. 

It's not just people going to war. You can be traumatized from being the victim of child abuse or child sexual abuse or a car accident.- Tracey Plain, artist

"It's really not that easy for people to come out and talk about this," said one artist, who asked to be identified only by her first name Kristyn. 

"If they need a voice to be heard, then this is it. Paint your trauma. Paint your healing process. Paint your journey and hopefully you'll be heard that way."

Speaking through art

After being sexually assaulted, Kristyn said she became extremely anxious and isolated. It was through art and music that she was finally able to express her feelings about the traumatic event.
After being sexually assaulted, Kristyn said she wanted to paint something both beautiful and filled with hope. (Kristyn)

"I wanted to paint beauty," she said, "What I've experienced in the past was extremely overwhelming, but I've managed to overcome that, and through overcoming what has happened I've managed to create a thing of beauty."

Kristyn said painting is also her way of speaking out against injustices in society.

"In quite a few cases there are people who reach out to authorities or counsel and ... sometimes next to nothing is done," she said. "When the community gets together and people who have similar experiences get together, they know that they're not alone."

Exposing misunderstandings

The word trauma is frequently heard, but not well understood according to artist Tracey Plain, whose collage of a woman at a funeral is included in the exhibit.

"Personally, when I first heard the word trauma in regards to myself, it was from a family physician, and I left his office and I just thought he was crazy," she said.
Tracey Plain said making art helps her process traumatic experiences from her past. (Tracey Plain)

Plain, who had always associated trauma with veterans, said it took two years before she was able to admit that there are many different types of trauma. 

"It's not just people going to war. You can be traumatized from being the victim of child abuse or child sexual abuse or a car accident," she said.

Although she has been making art for years, Plain said this exhibit is the first time she has displayed her work publicly. 

She hopes the exhibit will lead to an acceptance of trauma, and pave the way to better community supports and services. 

The exhibit opened on Thursday in Kitchener. Organizers say it will move to Elmira in April, Cambridge in May, and Waterloo in June.

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