Our Portrait of a Campus series is part of a larger student-led project inquiring into the mental well-being of this campus.
We are a collective of students from various faculties who feel that there is a gap in the way that issues of mental health are currently being dealt with on this campus.
While we do not claim to represent campus in its entirety, we are aiming to involve our community in sharing their personal experiences and observations in navigating mental health at UW.
In facilitating this conversation, we’d like to foster a dialogue that will help to determine our needs as a community.
We hope that the stories gathered will provide further insight into the issues we face; it is our hope that by sharing each other's stories we can create a confident, collective voice that can lead the discussion towards addressing appropriate issues.
We hope engaging in this process will result in a greater sense of inclusion and discussion amongst the campus community.
Our outreach thus far has shown common insights into the issues surrounding mental health. All of the accounts given cite different ways in which the infrastructure of the university as an institution is contributing to a learning environment that is poorly facilitated. Additionally, some of our exchanges critiqued the university’s responses to the issues presented.
This first, artistic component of our initiative uses elements of street art and community portraiture. We engaged students, staff, and faculty at the University of Waterloo in individual conversations on mental health on our campus, focusing on the question of “What weighs us down?”.
Out of each conversation came a statement that summarized each participant’s experience; we included these statements along side each portrait with the participant’s consent. We invited participants from every corner of campus: undergraduate students from each faculty; graduate students; department staff; instructors. The result is a mosaic of portraits representative not only of students but of the wider campus community.
We display the portraits across campus as both a reflection of its diversity and its position within campus space. The result is a broader statement about reclaiming our collective voices, our community, and our environment. As members of this community who are either paid or pay to be here, we believe we have a right to influence the way we interact with campus space.