General News Stigma Reduction — 12 November 2013
Going underground for a deeper view of mental health

A spooky underworld of fortune tellers and trolls lurked beneath Yarralumla on Sunday afternoon, when the Tunnel Project took over the Commonwealth Avenue pedestrian underpass.

Part of Changing Places, an arts scheme of the Mental Health Foundation ACT, the Tunnel Project involved performance artists taking on creepy, fantasy world personas and interacting with audiences as they walked through the space.

Changing Places lead artist Robin Davidson said the program of installations and events was about looking at how the social and physical environment affected mental health.

It began mid-year, when Davidson held three workshops that were open to anyone, but specifically promoted to people who had suffered mental illness.ml-artw-tunnel-20131110195759881397-620x349

Attendees drew a map of the ACT, identifying locations that affected their mental health for better or worse, and the team then came up with a series of projects to change those places, even temporarily.

Davidson said he hoped the art would prompt people to reconsider how they thought about mental health.

”When we walk through particular environments we have memories that are associated with places; I guess partly what this is about is giving people some different memories,” he said.

Local artist Melissa Gryglewski was responsible for the Tunnel Project.

The drama teacher and public servant said when she was a child her aunt would take her to Questacon, catching the bus to Commonwealth Avenue and walking along the underpass.

”I always imagined as I walked under this underpass that I’d be taken to an other- worldly place, because you have to descend down a significant number of stairs, and as an adult, because now I work in the Parliamentary Triangle, I still expect to be transported to another space,” she said.

Gryglewski said she welcomed the opportunity to present the talents of Canberra’s artistic community.

”There’s a lot of rich talent in the Canberra community and there’s very few places where people feel they have a lot of artistic freedom … really all I’ve done is invite people along and this is the magic that happens as a consequence,” she said.

This article first appeared on Canberra Times on 11 November, 2013.

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