Aroba Podcasts

Facing Addiction: Commitment

March 28, 2022 Adrian Hayles Season 1 Episode 4
Aroba Podcasts
Facing Addiction: Commitment
Show Notes Transcript

Adrian Hayles’ background includes mural painting, graphic design and illustration.  For the pass nine years, he has been operating as an independent artist, before that he worked in the animation industry.  A year ago, Adrian began the commitment of a street outreach project for substance users, with the end goal of creating a Harm Reduction Oasis Centre in one of Toronto’s most under served communities.

WARNING! This podcast may be triggering to some audiences. Audience discretion is advised.   If anything you heard in this podcast is triggering for you, please go to https://workmanarts.com/resources/mental-health-resources/ for a list of mental health resources.

L Lovell:

I'm so glad we caught up. You're so busy on Fridays.

Adrian:

Oh, you're talking about the outreach work? Well, it's been spread around a group of us. So my main days are on Fridays. Before I came here, I was up there, you know, just meeting with their friends and finding what they needed. Last week was really nice because we were giving out these food vouchers from Entertainment Kitchen, so you can go get a meal up to $15 with the food voucher, little things like that. But it doesn't take a lot of time to you know, an hour a week isn't a whole lot of time to visit and, and distribute, assess the store community.

L Lovell:

Hello, I'm Lana Lovell, and I'm at the Work Gallery. Adrian Hayles, father, mural artist, teacher, and owner of the Toronto gallery, Worth, is a very busy man. He's also a community activist who feels a commitment to the Black community. Adrian downplays his commitment by saying his own responsibility to the world is to be Black and die. But for the last year, has been part of a harm reduction group that supports drug users in the black community by giving them non-judgmental support to increase their knowledge so that they can live safer and healthier lives. I'd like to give a warning about this podcast. This podcast contains some discussions around topics that may be triggering to some audiences. So audience discretion is advised. If you feel that you would like some support, some resources, please go to workmanarts.com., Resources, Mental Health. And welcome to the podcast. Adrian, how did you get involved in a street outreach program?

Adrian:

It felt somewhat like there was a need that was not being met. And so you're just trying to fill the gap myself and Melody she is you know, as you well know, is a street health nurse, nurse at health, Street Health Toronto. And so we just met, and it was really an organic gathering of us coming together and talking about what we could do in that neighbourhood. And then one thing led to the next and then we started to organize with the other organizations that are in the neighborhood with the same intention. And so that really helped. And I think it's just a matter of its strength in numbers, right? Like, I feel a lot less pressure, knowing that there's, there's support there on other days other than the day that I'm there, right. So that's where I feel, I feel comforted that knowing that it's not we're not alone, right, there's the support system is being spread across the table throughout the week.

L Lovell:

How would you define harm reduction?

Adrian:

I would define harm reduction as simply safe use. So knowing that people are in the condition that they're in and are going to be are dependent on, on various, you know, necessities. It's only right to give them a place or a means in which to do it safely. My aunt used to have an old saying that if you can't be good, be careful. So I think that really resonates with me.

L Lovell:

You downplay the, I think extraordinary commitment that it takes to look at people who are very much on the fringes of the Black community and to say, 'No, hold on a second. I see that I can help and I can be supportive.'

Adrian:

I do a lot of reading over the pandemic, specifically "The Destruction of Black Civilization" was a big part of my reading. "The Miseducation of the Black- of the Negro" was really profound for me, "Negroes with Guns," just things to

really see a:

where we've come from, and what our needs are and feeling a sense of responsibility; and I think as a as an artist as well -- and you can see a lot of my work around the city is getting a lot of attention -- representation is a huge part of helping to get, you know, empower our people. There's not enough of us doing positive things, I feel, or not enough lights being shone upon us when we're doing when we're doing positive things, so I think that we can each as individuals take a step forward and some you know, responsibility to be the best you to show a reflection of of what could be done for others. Right?

L Lovell:

Does that come from your, your auntie? Where did that come from this philosophy?

Adrian:

I don't know. I just, I feel that I couldn't, so I do. I'm able to I do a lot for myself. I'm you know, very independent and feeling very comfortable with what I've done for myself. I feel like I can extend and help others.

L Lovell:

What are your objectives around this harm reduction work?

Adrian:

My objective is to get our objective because again, it's become more than just Tempo, which is the name of our resource organization. It's been, it's bigger than us. And I think collectively with the other -- Unison is one of them, the organizations that we help out that help out with this -- we're trying to find a location, a storefront, where the community can go for the resources, as opposed to us having to continuously go there in these short spurts. That's kind of what we're looking at. It's kind of an oasis in that neighbourhood because there are other supports of resources in other parts of the city, it's just in that little nook, there's not a lot being offered. So having some kind of stable resource centre would be ideal.

L Lovell:

How do you see that coming about? It was, for me, it's, I find it really interesting that parallel between you having a storefront for your, your artwork, and trying to have a storefront or a space for this other issue that you're committed to.

Adrian:

Well, it's, it's, you know, it's funny, we're talking about the gallery was so easy, because I've done this before. Before the pandemic, I was part of a #Hashtag Gallery that was in the same space for about five years. And then of course, the pandemic happened, we didn't want to continue paying rent on the space that we were using, so we closed it down, I parted ways. And then the space became available in December of last year. And the, uh, the owner reached out and asked if I was interested in opening up something in there, and you know, another gallery and the rest is Worth, is history. So March, kind of planning towards March from December in hopes that, you know, the world would reopen and we'd have an audience to entertain in our space. So it was nice that everything kind of worked out pretty perfectly where, you know, the world kind of opened up when we did.

L Lovell:

Adrian, what's going on with Worth Gallery now?

Adrian:

So the show right now, the exhibition right now, or more so, is called "Boxes and Barriers," and its features 30- oh sorry, 360 Outside-the-Box projects, so StART Toronto has been doing it since 2012. There's amassed about 360 altogether, and 76 of them are being featured here and the rest of them are being projected downstairs in the lower gallery. Okay, so there's, this is built up on all the boxes that the city have been painting since 2012. So these are the Outside-the-Box projects. It's an amazing opportunity that the city's StART Toronto, specifically their project, where artists such as myself -- I've been a part of it as well and helped me cut my teeth -- but it's a great opportunity for local artists to, to get into the mural industry, as it were, and, you know, get their artwork out on the street for the public to enjoy.

L Lovell:

Is it an industry?

Adrian:

It was, yeah; we're an art industry. We're artists, street artists. Yeah. It's you know, we're producing something in the public realm. As a part of, of #Hashtag Gallery, we were talking about doing things like this. So it was kind of just really serendipitous that the opportunity came back to open up the gallery because I was able to pick up on a lot of the things I was doing, at at Hashtag that I'm doing now at Worth. So it's a blessing. I also work with the Dufferin Grove Alternative School just down the streets. They had the grades three, fours, and five- threes, fours, fives, and sixes come through yesterday to visit and see the boxes; we're actually going to be doing a small project with them at the school where they're gonna be able to design these miniature boxes that the StART has designed, developed, just so they can have some fun with the project.

L Lovell:

So what other objectives do you have for your space? Yeah,

Adrian:

We continue on with our life drawing, on every Mondays we have Monday night life drawings from 6:30 'til 9:30. I also teach life drawing during that time as well. I'm developing a curriculum, so it's a three-month curriculum on drawing. So everything from structural drawing right up to portrait to portraitures, which is kind of my specialty. So all the principles now has been art- Sorry, the principles and elements of art is what we're going to be dissecting and exploring. And also from that we'll also be doing bachelorette live drawing sessions. So if you can imagine, you know, a group of bachelorette enthusiasts, you know, anywhere between nine and 14 get together, come to the gallery, I provide a, you know, a buffed nude model, and I teach them how to draw him. It's about a couple of bottles of wine, with snacks to know it's a three-hour event. It's something that's served us- served myself very well over the years and I'd like to reintroduce it here at Worth.

L Lovell:

So bachelorettes. What's the age group again?

Adrian:

For the bachelorettes? Oh, I mean, you're getting married. It's you and your girlfriends; it's Bachelorette? Yeah, yeah, yeah, so sorry. It's like literally like a bachelor party but for the ladies. I can then get back to doing murals, it's bringing us right into mural season pretty soon and

L Lovell:

Tell me a little bit about your work, your murals. it's going to be April's right around the corner, and the weather's getting nice. So I need to get back, back out in the field as it were,

Adrian:

They're usually surrounding music, just coincidentally I love music, I DJ. So a lot of my murals tend to be featuring musicians in portraits.

L Lovell:

Do you have something that you want to get done this season? Do you have a particular idea in mind?

Adrian:

Oh, well, I have this project that I have coming up, I kind of keep it under my hat. I'm really excited for, you know, the, the warmer weather and I feel like I'm coming out

of it's kind of a rebirth; a:

with Worth Gallery being here and kind of picking up right where I left off when the pandemic hit. So there's a there's a great deal of energy, even with the the events that I have been having here at the gallery.

L Lovell:

With all of the work that you're doing and being so busy, how do find time for your work up at the Oakwood area? How do you find time for that?

Adrian:

I find that with the more things you have to do, the

L Lovell:

What makes you think it will come? more things get done; the second you have the two things to do

Adrian:

Oh, well, just being optimistic and positive, like all day, then it just seems to never get done. So I kind of run really hot on in that environment where it's like, there's lots going on, and I am under the gun, so much so that, the way the same way everything else has happened, right? Look you know, it's pressure breeds brilliance, in my opinion so I like to keep myself on that edge. And I'm an artist. So it's this is, this is like a no-brainer. But the, the thought about, thought about finding resources for the outreach place, an actual establishment for it, is well out of my realm, because it's- I've never done anything like that before. Simply you know, pitching and kind of championing the concept of it, but that's something I know I will need a lot of support for. And that'll come. how far we've come since we've started to- it's almost been a year since we've been out there and literally giving out Naloxone kits to people who are, are just on the fringes of you know, of between existence and oblivion, you know what I'm saying? So it's very real. And I don't think anything happens in life without a purpose. And when your purpose and you know your objectives are clear, then the right people will come, you know? God doesn't come, he sends. Just the same way I met Melody and said, 'Here we are," you know, a year later doing all this work. And it just came from just a fruition of, 'Hey, I'd love to be able to do something.' And here we are a year later doing so much. So if you asked me how I know, it's just having faith in seeing how far we've come. Why would you not think there'd be more to come?

L Lovell:

What drew your attention to it in the first place?

Adrian:

Oh, I was just painting the mural actually painting the [--] mural, the initial one and having the discussions with the community, the consultations.

L Lovell:

During our discussions about harm reduction, Adrian names the streets where he and his associates visits on Friday to do the harm reduction work. But because they had some concerns about bringing unwanted attention to those locations, for this podcast, I've removed or beeped out the street names. For the majority of the community, I would say their thoughts were on reclaiming it in which is what we've done right, like [--], now has a lot more of a vibrant and a positive reflection of itself as opposed to what it used to be before the mural was put up. So even with the you know, as much as I say, you know, there might have been some negative connotations with [--] it, it was a really positive thing to do. There was you know, about a lot of attention, it brought a lot of resources to the community. So it was good. Were you aware of the amount of opioid use in the Black community before this?

Adrian:

No, it was just, I just wasn't around it enough to, to know, I mean, I was in the community and you hear about things. But of course, when you get embedded to it, then you you see more.

L Lovell:

What have you learnt?

Adrian:

What have I learned from it? Jeez, I mean, it's opened my eyes to the damaging effects of it. I mean, I wouldn't otherwise be going into the [--] unless for that purpose of trying to help those in there. So yeah, it's been an eye opener.

L Lovell:

What do you think is needed to make the harm reduction storefront space happen, that oasis happen. What do you think is needed?

Adrian:

Well, I was talking to a friend of mine, Alexis, today and we were talking about the development that's happening along that, that entire strip, and it's hard to determine where things are going to go because it's in such upheaval, like there's so much development happening. So it's you kind of gotta wait, you got to put the word out there that there's interest. Man, like you know, just keep on keeping on you know. I'm really positive with the things that are gonna happen in the community. I think we raised a lot of eyebrows and change is definitely going to be on the horizon. I don't see any I don't see why not. In what form it'll come, that remains to be determined, but I'm very optimistic our better days are going to come, especially in the- like i said, there's so much development that's happening there. It's, it's a part of that, our community growth will be for the better.