Oct. 28, 2021

STEM students use art to tell personal stories about mental health

Bridging art and science, STEM Art Hub invites campus community to The Art of Mindfulness show and sale through Nov. 5
Art of Mindfulness
The Art of Mindfulness is at the Little Gallery until November 5. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

What does stress and anxiety look like to you? For Allesha Eman, it’s clusters of flashing lights whirling around at high speeds. Her surroundings feel distorted. Her emotions are mixed up into bundles of flares. Eman, a third-year health sciences student at the University of Calgary, captured that vision using acrylics on canvas. 

Her art, along with 26 other works, is on display at the Little Gallery from Oct. 25 to Nov. 5 for The Art of Mindfulness. The exhibition asked artists from the UCalgary community connected to  STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects to create works of art examining mental health struggles, mindfulness, and resilience. They delivered with paintings, prints, and mixed media that are poignant and personal. 

Making mental health personal

The artists from throughout UCalgary are studying, researching, or teaching biomedical sciences, natural sciences, architecture, kinesiology, education, electrical engineering, and more. What they all have in common is that they wanted to talk about mental health and they all had a story to share. 

“The stories are mind-blowing,” says Eman who co-founded the project. “And, their artwork shows individual stories of people you walk by on campus every day and don’t know. You get to meet them and really see them in their artwork.”

Jasneet Pritam used watercolours and ink to create spiraling faces to depict the scattered feelings that are the result of overthinking. Fatima Al Bihia’s digital print is a portrait of a girl and the inside of her mind, showing the complex feelings of depression and ADHD. Imrose Bhullar used pencil to show a mentally drained girl struggling to unplug her phone. Those are just a handful of the work on display and for sale.

Making it multi-disciplinary

The Art of Mindfulness is presented by the STEM Art Hub, a student club that bridges art and science. It focuses on the connections between the two disciplines as well as the benefits of having a multidisciplinary practice. 

“We’ve seen how engaging in the creative processes has actually helped us in our STEM courses and our ability to critically think and cognitively appraise different situations,” says Shyla Bharadia, club president and co-founder of The Art of Mindfulness. “We want to translate what art has done for us to the broader STEM and art community.”

The exhibit creates an opportunity for STEM students to engage in the creative process and encourages an empathic discussion around mental health, something Bharadia says we need more of. 

“This project helps encourage us to be more comfortable vocalizing or expressing thoughts and feelings on mental health so that we can have a more informed, personal approach to what we think about when we hear that someone suffers from a mental health condition or even in science when we go about practising research,” says Bharadia. “It’s a way to not disconnect the individual from the science.” 

Art sales support mental health research

All the work on display is for sale with proceeds going to the The Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education

“The Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education is dedicated to advancing research and education on early identification, treatment and prevention of mental illness,” says Dr. Paul Arnold, MD, PhD, director, Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education. “We believe that art can play a critical role in learning about and reducing stigma about mental health.” 

Art show details

The Art of Mindfulness is on display in UCalgary’s Little Gallery on the sixth floor of the Art Building from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on October 25 to 29 and November 1 to 5. Attendance is limited to UCalgary students, faculty, and staff only. 

Virtual reception

A virtual reception on October 28 at 5 p.m. is open to everyone. It includes door prizes. Brad Necyk, who is an artist with a PhD in psychiatry, is the keynote speaker. RSVP for the opening reception here.

Donate or buy art

Donations for The Art of Mindfulness are now being accepted. Anyone interested in purchasing an exhibition piece can buy them from The Art of Mindfulness online shop until the end of November.

The project is sponsored by the CORE and Inglewood Art Supplies