Professional Artistic Growth Made Accessible

‘Professional Artistic Growth Made Accessible’ is an innovative community partnership project that offers free professional development opportunities to Vancouver artists with lived experience of mental health and/or substance use issues. It is funded by Vancouver Coastal Health’s Consumer Initiative Fund.

2022 was the first year of the project. It was a partnership between myself and Outsiders and Others gallery. The project offered free professional development opportunities to Vancouver artists with lived experience of mental health +/- substance use issues. I co-facilitated three workshops and co-curated two exhibitions with Gallery Director and Curator, Yuri Arajs. Yuri also provided 21 1-on-1 artist consultations. To learn more about last year’s project, visit: https://www.outsidersandothers.com/professional-artistic-growth-made-access

2023 Opportunities

In 2023, the project is expanding to offer free expert-led and peer-led opportunities for both visual artists and writers. Through workshops and 1-on-1 consults, participants will receive guidance and support from: 1) the director and curator of an art gallery, 2) an experienced author, teacher, and writing consultant, and 3) a practicing self-taught artist with lived experience of mental health issues whose art has been exhibited in galleries and writing has been published in literary journals and anthologies.

Expert-led Opportunities for Visual Artists – The partnership with Outsiders and Others is continuing, with Yuri offering 16 one-hour 1-on-1 consults and two workshops. The first workshop will be in April and the second is tentatively planned for September. Participants benefitted greatly from the individualized guidance Yuri provided in the consults and the expertise he shared in the workshops last year.

Expert-led Opportunities for Writers – Responding to community interest, the project is expanding to include opportunities for writers through a partnership with much-sought-after author, writing consultant, and teacher, Betsy Warland. Betsy will offer 5 two-hour 1-on-1 consults and two workshops for writers with lived experience. The first workshop will take place in the spring and the second in the fall.

Peer-led Opportunities for Visual Artists – I will offer two sessions of a peer-led sharing and discussion group for artists with lived experience. The group will provide an opportunity for participants to share ideas, strategies, and resources. The first session is scheduled for July. I’m also offering 1-on-1 consults to artists who are just starting out and looking for help finding opportunities, completing applications, etc.

2023 Project Partners

I’m so excited to be partnering with Yuri and Betsy on this project, as they both have a wealth of experience and have helped me so much in my professional development as a visual artist and writer, respectively. I’m very grateful to CIF for funding this project and to Yuri and Betsy for agreeing to the partnership.

Yuri Arajs is a working artist who has dedicated much of his practice to advocating for fellow artists, including artists who live with a disability. He has has been recognized by the press and received numerous awards for his arts advocacy and promotion, as well as for his curatorial work as a gallerist, and was named most influential curator by the Minnesota Monthly in 2008. Yuri is also an accomplished artist, holding three degrees, including a Masters of Fine Art from Cranbrook Academy of Art. His work is in both private and public collections.


Betsy Warland is the author of fourteen books of creative nonfiction, memoir, and poetry, and has also been a manuscript consultant and editor for more than 30 years.

A leading mixed-genre writer, teacher, and manuscript mentor/editor in Canada, her collection of essays on writing, Breathing the Page—Reading the Act of Writing, became a bestseller in 2010. A second edition, with new material, will be released in 2023. Writers who have worked with Betsy have gone on to publish books and be included in the BC Book Prizes, the Griffin Prize, and the Governor General’s Award.

Betsy designed and directed The Writer’s Studio at S.F.U. from 2001-2012; and has been a TWS Mentor or on TWS faculty for many of the past twenty years. She is the founder and program director of the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive Vancouver Manuscript Intensive and has also been on faculty as Sage Hill Writing Experience (SK), as well as U.B.C.’s Booming Ground, among other places.


For any questions about the project and/or to be added to the project email list, please contact seema.outsider@gmail.com.