To mark International Overdose Awareness Day 2021, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has partnered with local artists to launch Not Just an Art Show: The Overdose Crisis on Canvas. The exhibition will feature more than a dozen pieces inspired by each artist's thoughts on International Overdose Awareness Day, drawing from their experiences with the current overdose crisis.
InterUrban Art Gallery
1 East Hastings Street
August 31 to September 3
2 to 6 p.m.
Since the declaration of a public health emergency in April 2016, 7,000 people across our province have lost their lives to drug overdose. In 2020 alone, more than 1,700 people died due to overdose. But the overdose crisis is not about numbers, it's about people.
The ongoing overdose crisis is affecting our friends, families and communities. International Overdose Awareness Day and the Not Just an Art Show: The Overdose Crisis on Canvas art exhibition is an opportunity for people to better understand the overdose crisis and, through art, connect with vibrant, dynamic communities devastated by it.
VCH collaborated with Portland Hotel Society to display the artwork in the heart of the DTES, with individual pieces contributed by more than a dozen artists with lived and living experience of substance use across the Vancouver Coastal Health region. Lived experience relates to people who have used one or more substances and who are currently in recovery. Living experience relates to people who are currently using one or more substances.
"People continue to die of overdoses in our communities at an unacceptably high rate. This art exhibition is an opportunity for artists from the community to express how the crisis has impacted them directly and share what Overdose Awareness Day means to them," said Miranda Compton, VCH's Executive Director for Substance Use and Priority Populations. "Overdose Awareness Day is also an opportunity to acknowledge the hard work of peers and community members in responding to the crisis."
Peer workers form the backbone of frontline response to the overdose crisis. As individuals with lived and living experience of substance use, peer workers have in-depth, first-hand knowledge of harm reduction, treatment and recovery services. They form an important connection between people who use substances and the healthcare community.
"Peer workers play a core role and serve as critical supports across all of the overdose prevention sites," said Wendy Stevens, Peer Operations Coordinator with VCH's Overdose Emergency Response Team. "While we remember those lost to this crisis, we also need to hold space for people who are in the trenches saving lives everyday."
"Frontline workers deserve respect for what they do," said Sebastian Randy, an artist living in the Downtown Eastside. "They often don't get acknowledgement for saving lives by reversing overdoses long before any help arrives. That is what Overdose Awareness Day is about: saving lives."