August 2013 – by Emily Holton
When Isabel Fryszberg (occupational therapist and creative lead of Creative Works Studio), Janet Parsons (research scientist in the Applied Health Research Centre) and Jennifer Laiwint (volunteer photographer), gathered their documentary participants on the street for the above photo, it caused a bit of a stir. Smiling for the camera, the subjects held a sign that read, “What’s Art Got to Do With It?”
“Everything!” hollered a passerby from a streetcar window.
What’s Art Got to Do With It?, Fryszberg and Parsons’ documentary about the Creative Works program, takes viewers inside the world of mental illness, homelessness, addiction and recovery. The film features five people who, despite their unique challenges, find fulfillment and celebration in art.
The studio, part of St. Michael’s Inner City Health Program, offers healing, recovery and community through the creative arts for people living with a mental illness.
“Our participants agreed to let us film their experiences and were surprised to find that the filming was a healing experience in itself,” said Fryszberg, the film’s director. “Hiding yourself from the world takes a tremendous amount of energy. So putting yourself out there like that can be very freeing.”
Fifty minutes in length, the film has been a labour of love for Fryszberg, Parsons, Marlena Zuber (studio assistant) and the project participants for the past several years. It’s also the product of a Canadian Institutes of Health Research dissemination grant to share research knowledge and innovative practice.
“We’re excited about promoting the studio through this film, but we’re also excited about this idea of documentary filmmaking as a knowledge translation tool,” said Fryszberg.
The documentary has been accepted by the Female Eye Film Festival and had its world premiere at the Carlton Cinema on June 20. There will also be a screening for the St. Michael’s community at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Oct. 1.