Big Feels: Post Radical Growth Symposium

Big Feels: Post Radical Growth Symposium

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The “BigFeels: Post Radical Growth Symposium: Making Space for Mental Health in the Arts is a three-day online symposium for the arts sector. This symposium will be a site of gathering and celebration for artists, communities, and a sector that has continued to shift through adversity and arrive into various states of individual and collective radical growth. BigFeels: Post Radical Growth highlights the importance of an intersectional approach when considering and engaging with mental health themes. We invite you to engage critically with these topics through the symposium’s programming led by Workman Art members ranging from panel discussions, workshops and performances!

The symposium will be hosted entirely virtually. Pre-registration for the symposium programming is required. All symposium events are Free/Pay-What-You Wish.


Contact Symposium Coordinator Hanan Hazime at


Closed Captioning services will be provided via zoom.

Self-Care Kits are available on-site. Contact Membership & Hospital Programs Manager Raine Laurent-Eugène at

This project is supported by the Canada Arts Presentation Fund Program, Support for Workers in Live Arts and Music Sector Fund.



Keynote Speaker – Rochelle Richarson

5:30-6:30 PM ET

Coming from an intersectional perspective, as a Black, Queer, and Mentally Ill Arts Worker Rochelle R will be discussing the importance of navigating Radical Wellness and Self-Care from a professional perspective. The importance of taking care of the self to be able to show up in professional spaces. The need to challenge the “status quo” and resist grind culture, and the difficulties that arise in doing so. Creatives and arts professionals often struggle to maintain that line between creative moments of relaxation and self-care, and the need to remain productive and produce work for capital gain. Constantly negotiating between labour and self-expression. Rochelle will be discussing the challenges and importance of prioritizing radical comfort and care practices as professional arts workers.

Rochelle R (She/They) is a Canadian-Caribbean community-engaged, multidisciplinary theatre artist; writer, producer and advocate for Black, Queer, Mad/Mentally Ill, and disabled communities. Rochelle holds a BA in English and Theatre Studies from the University of Guelph, and they are a recent graduate of reputable training programs in and around the GTA. Select companies and programs include Artist Producer Training Program with Generator, Paprika Theatre Festival: Directors Lab, b current BCHUB, Buddies in Bad Times Emerging Creator’s Unit, Nightwood’s Young Innovators program, Piece of Mine Arts: Internship, Dance Immersion: Legacy Leaders, and a few others.  Rochelle was the Co-Artistic Director of emerging theatre company Low Hanging Fruit Productions and is now focusing her attention on a new Arts and Wellness Space, promoting Wellness Practices for arts workers, primarily those who are members of vulnerable communities. Rochelle consistently promotes and develops opportunities for discussions covering the complexities of intersectionality and allyship while prioritizing members from the Black diaspora. 

Right As Rain, Growing Through Discomfort – A Musical Journey

7 – 8 PM 

Facilitated by Vivek Mehmi

Join Vivek Mehmi, for a performance and discussion of his original music. Vivek will share how each song has helped him move through physical, mental and emotional health challenges. Ending the session with a group discussion on some of the themes in the music and best practices. Attendees will learn how creating music can provide therapy for healing. This session is for anyone who needs inspiration, wants to raise their vibration and loves music!

Attendees are encouraged to listen to Mehmi’s album Right As Rain ahead of time to process the content. A pen and something to write notes during the presentation are suggested.


AdHack Workshop: Changing the Power Dynamics of Advertisements Through Art and Laughter

10 – 12 PM

Facilitated by Stephanie Avery

Join Stephanie for a fun, hands-on workshop that will have you laughing at the absurdity of advertisements. As advertisements become more ubiquitous in our public and, increasingly, private/digital spaces, we need to become aware of their presence, their manipulation tactics and the toll they take on our mental health. Stephanie’s ongoing ‘AdHack’ painting series uses the power of laughter to disarm ads and create a healthier relationship with a medium we are regularly exposed to.

Using reclaimed advertisements as her canvas, Stephanie paints her own whimsical additions directly onto them – strange creatures that interact with or replace the products and models – to critique the duplicitous aspects of consumer culture and the constructs of advertising. Using farce to undermine the pervasive power and influence they wield, she shifts and subverts advertisements from being manipulative and insidious to hilarious and absurd, and transforms the viewer/advertiser relationship from predatory to empowering. In this workshop, she wants you to do the same!

After a short presentation on Stephanie’s process and body of work, participants will be encouraged to grab magazines and paint/markers to join in on the fun! Making one’s own ‘AdHacks’ is an easy and cathartic way of changing how you react to ads. Together, we will share our creations and have casual conversations about the impact ads and consumer culture have on our lives, communities, and world. No art experience is needed to participate, and the sillier the creations, the better!

Bringing magazines or any ephemera with advertisements (the LCBO has free magazines that are perfect for the project), markers and/or paint and brushes is encouraged. Stephanie especially recommends paint markers (available at any art supply store). 

Mental Health In Nature

1 – 2:30 PM

Facilitated by Nathan Cole

Nathan Cole discusses how his outdoor explorations assisted in the recovery and maintenance of his mental health and shares tips on how to enhance your experience in nature. This is a partially collaborative event where participants can share their own experiences and ask questions.

Hope in a World on Fire: Envisioning Utopia as Radical Praxis

4 – 7 PM

Facilitated by iowyth hezel ulthiin

This workshop will be an experiment in the radical possibilities of group visioning processes. Organized in the form of a sharing circle, participants will engage in a group deconstruction of the world that is, engaging in a purging of anxiety and grief at the ways in which the world is failing us both individually and collectively. The group will then attempt to rebuild the world in an image of equity and justice, combining their collective powers to see through the present moment into the potential of future transformation. Within this process is the tension of how to bring about such change and how to engage with the radical need for social and ecological health. In attempting to tackle this subject, the forum will present the potential to purge feelings of helplessness and despair and to set our sights on possible sites of engagement and reformation.

Compassionate Inquiry for Creatives

7:30 – 9 PM

Facilitated by Heather Clear Wind

Come join us for Community, Connection and Creative Expression through Compassionate Inquiry to explore new ways of being and connecting to what makes your heart sing, approaching your creative process with compassion and supportive self-care practices.

There will be a nature meditation and some Indigenous teachings, and Heather will share some of her journey and tools she finds helpful.

We will be connecting with nature as a support system that you can connect with and access 24/7 – which is so important at times of restrictions when one may find themselves on their own (and/or possibly unable to get outdoors).

We will be led on a heart-centered journey of Compassionate Inquiry into mindfulness (present moment awareness) and into new ways of connecting with inspiration for your creative practice bringing your inherent gifts forward to be shared with the world.

There will be a chance to connect to the group by sharing what you find helpful/inspiring and/or to ask questions as we come together in creative community.

Materials needed: You may want to bring a journal or notepad so you can take notes of what arises for you and find a quiet space so you can be on your own for our gathering.

You may also want to have a favourite essential oil (or something you can smell), a beverage or something you can taste, something you can feel, and something that you feel inspired or comforted by.

Visit Heather’s website here:

Special Notes:The artist offers this gathering with audio (camera off) mainly for safety as she was in human trafficking as a child and thus doesn’t share her identity online, but also as an act of decolonization, and as research studies show it reduces our carbon footprint and it’s better for mental health

Audio version of course description:


W.O.W.  –  Writing Opens Windows for the Heart and Soul!

12:30 – 2:30 PM

Facilitated by Christina Walsh

Do you have a story to tell? Something on your heart you want to share?  You are in the right place!

In this workshop we will write to a couple of prompts I will provide and read out and put in the chat. We will write in silence for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then we will each read and receive feedback that is positive and authentic. “What did you like about the piece? the voice? the character? What speaks to you about the piece? What resonates?” One of the prompts will be an art-related prompt and the second one will be a writing prompt or both!

The power of being heard begins a journey to healing and transformation. Writing and making art speaks volumes, creates inner and outer connections, and brings people together using the power of their own voice to tell stories. “Come as you are, bring yourself and your voice to write and create art!” No previous art and writing experience is necessary! 

Suggested preparation and materials are pens, paper, newsprint or photocopy regular paper (anything affordable!) pencil crayons, crayons,  a variety of markers, some mixed media paper and/or acrylics, paintbrushes, plastic pallets, and reusable margarine or yogurt containers for water.

CONVERSATIONS AROUND NEURODIVERSITY: Mad & Autistic, Building Inclusive Futures

4 – 5 PM

Facilitated by Emily Gillespie

This one-hour conversation features four Mad/ mentally ill and Autistic artists in different artistic disciplines talking about their experiences in the arts. We will discuss if and how their identity has shaped their art practice.  Both the Mad community and Autistic community have unique politics and pride movements. Panelists will have the opportunity to discuss whether activism has impacted their work. We will also reflect on accessibility barriers in the arts community, what needs improved and what they wish neurotypical people knew. This panel will conclude by asking what the panelists’ hopes for inclusion in the arts sector at large look like as we emerge from pandemic life.

Taking Care While Making Work About Your Life

3 – 4:30 PM

With Justina Zatzman and Rick Miller

Creating autobiographical work or artwork that draws from personal experience can be a powerful and evocative process for an artist and any collaborators. Sharing examples from his own work, filmmaker and photographer Rick Miller offers insights on supporting your mental health through the process of creating autobiographical work, in conversation with friend, collaborator and former Workman Arts Membership Manager, Justina Zatzman.

For one hour, Participants are invited into a conversation about how to support creative work with personal material, not only in caring for yourself, but also to create healthy and supportive creative environments for collaborators. As lifting restrictions allow artists to re-engage more openly with collaborative work, we have an opportunity to envision collective growth in how we care for the artists we work with (including ourselves).

At the end of the conversation, Rick and Justina will share a draft tool that they’re co-creating to offer suggestions for creating trauma-informed creative environments with a focus on filmmaking, but which could be useful for artists practicing collaboratively in any artistic discipline.

The structured discussion will end after an hour, but interested participants are welcome to stay for an additional 30 minutes to share or ask questions.


5:30 – 6:30 PM

Facilitated by Kat Singer

Individuals who attract the label of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) tend to demonstrate remarkable creativity, and many find themselves working in the arts, a field marked by precarity and competition for scarce resources. Until recently the presence of ADHD in certain populations, such as those assigned female at birth or adults, has been under-recognized, contributing to a lack of available supports for these populations. This presentation will explore “adult” ADHD and the advantages and barriers it may present for one’s career in the arts. It will also offer education about, and practical advice around navigating several common ADHD-related challenges. 

The Glass Eye

6:30 – 8:00 PM

Facilitated by Angela Sun

Angela has a story she wants to tell that will explain everything — No, that’s not it. She has a story about her “mental health journey”…? No, that’s not exactly it either. She just… has a story she has to tell before some well-meaning writer does it for her. If she will just let herself get out of her own head that is. 

This is a live work-in-process reading of Angela Sun’s play about Madness, representation, and the trauma of having to share your lived experience. The Glass Eye was developed as a part of Cahoots Theatre’s Hot House playwriting unit. 

A Creative Journey’s Medicine Trove

8 – 9:30 PM

Facilitated by Mayra Gemm

In this multidisciplinary performance, creatrix Mayra Gemm will share original acoustic folk songs, intuitive poetry and improvised soundscapes that have sprang as a result of her creative healing journey of almost 2 decades.

By using various art forms to help herself deal with the pain and isolation of living with chronic illnesses, mood disorders and the effects of various traumas, Mayra developed a rich experience of creating as an empowering, reconnecting, resilience building, growth promoting and healing process.

This journey also allowed her to discover her authentic voice as an artist. Her emotive performance style aims to honour and express her innate core essence.

Mayra will gently facilitate the audience to get in touch with their hearts and to listen from this space as she shares her heart.