Over the past 20 years, Kurt Cobain has become a central figure in the discussion about mental health. When the Nirvana front man committed suicide in 1994, reactions differed: out of disbelief, anger, and sadness, many took to the theory that he was murdered. But most were shocked that such a talented and successful figure of the 90s took his own life at the young age of 27.
What Cobain gave to the world lives on in his art — and his impact has made its way to Toronto. In celebration of his life and artistic legacy 20 years on, a group of Toronto artists have founded In Bloom: A Celebration of Teen Spirit and the Arts. The project seeks to benefit Toronto teenagers as they express themselves through theatre, song, dance, film and other forms of visual art.
Since November, students from Delisle Youth Services, Etobicoke School of the Arts, and Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute, have worked closely with mentors to develop their artwork for In Bloom. The students have worked toward a culminating art show to be held tonight at Daniels Spectrum, an arts programming center in Regent Park. The students have created stop motion films under the mentorship of Charles Officer, short films with the help of Ingrid Veninger, along with a fashion show and performance pieces.
Liane Balaban, Nicola Spunt, and Kathleen Munroe founded the project in order to help eliminate stigmatization surrounding youth mental health. The project is partially an homage to the effect Cobain had on their own coming of age. Balaban says that “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana’s well known single from Nevermind, was the first time she felt “reflected and legitimized in art.”
The group chose Cobain as inspiration for the project as his message continues to span across generations. Cobain often spoke openly about his beliefs, fighting against homophobia, racism and sexism.
“We didn’t want to shy away from the complicated nature of his personality,” Balaban says of Cobain. “We wanted to use it as an opportunity to have an important, but difficult conversation about what it means to be healthy and happy and the struggles that we all face.”
Each of the students created something with the theme of identities in mind. Spunt says that they wanted to give teenagers the opportunity “to think deeply and critically about what [growing up] means for them and to express that in their artwork.”
In Bloom also has a goal to raise at least $5000 through a campaign they’ve set up on Indiegogo, some of which will go towards any outstanding expenses. Everything beyond that will be given to Delisle Youth Services, a program which the founders hugely support for its focus on assisting Toronto youth with a focus on the arts.
Not only has In Bloom encouraged Toronto youth to express themselves through art, but it has changed the perspectives of the founders as well.
“Working on In Bloom has emphasized the integral role that art plays in human flourishing,” Balaban says. “There’s nothing more important than the arts. The arts are the ways in which we can speak through media when we can’t speak out loud — perhaps there are ways that we can speak and be heard and connect with others through arts.”
The In Bloom artwork will be on display for the public on March 20, 2014 at Daniels Spectrum. The gallery show will start at 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, with the performances from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Visit the team’s Indiegogo page for more details.