Born from the idea that breastfeeding is important, the Breastfeeding Art Expo is now set up in the Station House Gallery.
“We wanted to do something around breastfeeding that would be innovative to help get the message out to the public about the importance of breastfeeding, but also get the message out internally within Interior Health to get us talking about how we can better support women,” said Karen Graham, the co-ordinator of the expo, as well as a public health dietitian with Interior Health.
“It was a really innovative and different way to do it through art.”
To create the exhibition, they called upon artists across Interior Health to work on a variety of community art projects to contribute.
In Williams Lake, Karen Irvine partnered with the Cariboo Friendship Centre and their outreach program to work on The Fabric of Motherhood. Irvine led two quilting workshops, and photographer Laureen Carruthers photographed each mother breastfeeding in a private setting.
Each mother chose a favourite photo, which was copied in black and white and enlarged, and then were able to embellish their photo, either through quilting, or through chalk art.
The final piece, alongside many art projects from other communities in the Interior, is on display at the Station House.
Additionally, the expo put out a call from individual artists to submit pieces to the show. Everyone from young girls to grandmothers submitted pieces, says Graham.
Lakecity artist Lynn Capling submitted two pieces, called Just Before the Latch and We Match.
According to her artist description, the images are of her daughter and granddaughter.
Art as a medium makes sense to Graham.
“Art has the power to make changes in a different way. It’s not as confrontational and breastfeeding is a challenging topic for many people especially for moms who maybe weren’t well supported to breastfeed and maybe had wanted to. There can be a lot of sadness around that,” said Graham.
“We wanted to talk about breastfeeding in a really positive way and that’s what this art expo has been.”
Williams Lake is the second to last stop on the tour of the show, and each show is slightly different based on the space of the building.
Paintings, statues, photographs and sculptures take up both floors of the Station House Gallery, and include information about breastfeeding, interpretations of the act, and how it has impacted people in communities throughout B.C.
“There was a lot of passion for breastfeeding from the artists,” said Graham.
“Many said they had never painted on breastfeeding, but it was clearly something that was in their past,” she said.
There are 75 artists involved in the project, according to Graham.
The expo is supported by Interior Health and the Vancouver Foundation, as well as Kelowna Community Resources and a variety of other organizations, whose contributions have allowed it to travel through the Interior.
Breastfeeding is also something that Graham is clearly passionate about.
“We need to do more to support mothers to breastfeed. We shouldn’t just tell mothers it’s the best thing. It is the best thing, there is unequivocal evidence that breastfeeding makes for the healthiest babies, but we have to then support mothers to do that, and that support comes right from the birthing experience through to the post natal.”
Through visits to the exhibit by school groups, Graham is also hoping that the art expo increases conversations about breastfeeding, conversations that are badly needed.
“It’s just opening their mind up for what are they doing for that segment of the population. If we want to support the healthiest populations we can, we have to start at the smallest — you have to start at that baby,” she says.
“Making healthy babies and healthy children extends through their lifetime.”
The exhibit at the Station House runs from March 9 – 31.