By Patrick Callan, Communications Coordinator
Sitting in her Workman Arts studio surrounded by dozens of her vibrant pieces of artwork, Apanaki Temitayo simply describes herself as a textile artist who specializes in mixed media.
But after a few minutes of talking to CAMH’s first Artist in Wellness, you quickly realize there’s much more to Apanaki’s artwork than meets the eye.
“I tend to use unconventional pieces or colours in my work and I predominately like African fabric,” says the Toronto born and Trinidad and Tobago raised artist. “I’m self-taught, so I really approach art in a way that people may not think about or even mixing techniques that people had never thought about before.”
Apanaki says she arrived at Workman Arts as a writer and developed into a visual artist. Located at CAMH, Workman Arts is a multidisciplinary, non-profit arts organization that promotes a greater understanding of mental health and addiction issues through creation and presentation.
In 2012, Apanaki submitted her first textile piece to Being Scene, an annual juried exhibition produced by Workman Arts that introduces the general public to the work of artists with lived experience. Her piece was called “The Egungun” and explored the re-imagining of tribal masks. Since then, she’s gone on to achieve international success as an author, spoken word poet, actor, multimedia artist, and teacher.
Most recently, Apanaki was the first facilitator of CAMH’s Art Cart program, a partnership between Gifts of Light and Workman Arts, which connects artists with lived experience to patients on their recovery journey. The mobile program lets patients explore their own creativity in a safe and encouraging environment on the units, explains Quinn Kirby, Manager, Gifts of Light, a program funded by donations that works directly with staff to identify and meet the basic needs of patients, such as new clothing and personal care items.
“We have seen many patients transform into confident and proud artists, creating beautiful pieces and even selling their first piece in one of our many art shows,” says Quinn. “Apanaki was compassionate, engaging, patient, kind and incredibly talented. You could feel the energy she brought to the space. The patients respected her for her art, but also her experience as someone who had also lived through her own mental health struggles.”