Exploring environmental grief, racism, and mental health through art

Rays to Connect featured art by nine young Montrealers with the theme of resiliency

Rays to Connect is one of the seven youth-led projects being held across the country. Photo Kendra Sharp

Ambassadors from Montreal-based nonprofit Apathy is Boring hosted an exhibit in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve on Saturday, Dec 4. The exhibit, Rays to Connect, explored themes of environmental grief, mental health and racism relating to the experiences of young Montrealers.

“We wanted to run an event that focused the most on youth in Montreal, especially [LGBTQA+] and BIPOC students,” said Madi Evans, an ambassador for Apathy is Boring and a Concordia undergraduate student. 

Rays to Connect was a part of one of seven youth-led projects being held across the country with a shared theme of resiliency. Each project was led by a group of young people in a different major Canadian city and was funded by Apathy is Boring. By orchestrating these types of events, the nonprofit aims to encourage young people to become more active citizens. 

Given the overarching theme of resiliency, the Montreal ambassadors—many of whom are also Concordia students—decided to focus on eco-anxiety. 

“Our small group decided the part of resilience we wanted to explore the most was anti-racism, mental health, and the environment because these things are all connected,” said Evans.

Read more: Nature’s point of no return: a human perspective

Artist Zihan Cai’s contribution to the exhibit focused on the care of our planet. Photo Kendra Sharp

Pieces featured in the pop-up show were created using a variety of mediums, from metal sculpture work to photography, and painting. Each artwork depicted a deeply personal reflection from the artist who created it, often pertaining to traumas or experiences that impacted their well-being. 

Artist Zihan Cai’s contribution to the exhibit included an acrylic painting that imagined one lone river in a vast desert. It showed the artist herself paddling down the river, with the only remaining fish swimming beneath her. In the distance, a purple planet loomed over the futuristic scene. 

“I was drawing parallels to caring for our planet,” said Cai. “We only have this planet which is why we should take good care of it.” 

The exhibit served as a space to openly discuss the many anxieties that young people in Montreal are confronted with, drawing connections with these and the environmental crisis. In the afternoon, a creative workshop on art and healing was guided y Lourdenie Jean of L’environment c’est intersectionnel, a collective that aims to deepen conversations about environmentalism through its impact on marginalized communities. 

“We realized the definition of eco-anxiety was different for everyone,” said Sara-Abrar Djaoud, another Apathy is Boring ambassador behind the project. 

Rays to Connect is a result of these many definitions, said Djaoud. In discussions leading up to the exhibit, she and the other ambassadors realized that the environmental crisis felt as though it were ever-present, but that each person might deal with it in a different way. 

“The environment and the climate crisis that’s going on is something that we hear about a lot as young people,” she said. “It’s something we need to consider in our future, no matter what we want to do.”