In 2016, Megan Kee lost her brother Jason to an overdose. Ever since then, she’s been determined to fight the stigma that drug users face, knowing that it directly contributes to the shame that prevents individuals from getting the help they need. The difference can mean life or death.
Having always found art to be a powerful way to instigate social change, Megan founded Twenty-Twenty Arts, and much of her advocacy is done through compelling art initiatives, the latest one ‘Weathered’ being the biggest.
In partnership with Street Health, and timed to launch on International Overdose Prevention Day, ‘Weathered’ is a giant photography exhibit, erected at Dundas Square, that shares the real-life family stories behind the disturbing overdose death-rate statistics, or mothers and fathers who’ve lost children, kids who’ve lost their mom or dad.
“Collaborating with Toronto-based photographer Jessica Okonski, we asked families who had lost loved ones to an overdose to submit photographs of their loved ones shoes, mementos, and stories. We want to share the stories behind the statistics. All traffic is being driven towards a FundRazr campaign in support of keeping Street Health’s Overdose Prevention Site open,” says Kee.
In the last six months, the opioid crisis has been overshadowed by COVID, and yet the overdose death rates are worse than ever. Ontario is currently averaging 55 overdose deaths a week, more than British Columbia at its worst. Hopefully by switching the focus from statistics to stories and pictures of Toronto families who’ve lost loved ones, citizens and governing authorities will be impacted differently, and this crisis will be taken more seriously.
“Losing a loved one to an overdose is like, and unlike, any other loss. Every time someone asks you how they died, your body stiffens, your heart races, and for a moment you pause. Will my honesty imprint a negative impression of my loved one in this person’s mind? I want people to remember my brother for how he lived, not how he died,” Kee shares.
The photography installation will be on display, on 5 digital screens at Yonge and Dundas Square, until September 6th. Please go see it.