Two years ago, Sandi Treliving was having dinner at an art gallery when one of the guests had an unexpected emotional breakdown prompted by a conversation about mental health. “He was very upfront with the others,” says Treliving. “We talked and hugged it out.”
Biannually, contemporary galleries from across the city come together to host intimate dinner parties in support of mental health and CAMH. The upcoming fundraising event is dubbed UnMasked, and invites guests to gather around table, surrounded by beautiful art work, while one of the country’s best chefs prepare dinner. (Since galleries don’t tend to have kitchens, the cooking usually takes place in parking lots and side alleys.)
The structure of the event provides a safe and welcome environment for sensitive conversations to take place, says Claudia Fieder, who serves as this year’s event’s co-chair along with Treliving. “It takes a mask off the illness.” Hosting them in art galleries helps when discussing emotions and feelings in a unique way.
“Art is expression and moody and comfortable,” Fieder says. “Looking at something beautiful is subjective, and that gives way to understanding other people’s inner states.”