Art that heals

We hear from a lot of people who would like to have their stories told in Halifax Magazine. We don’t have space to tell them all, so I have to be pretty ruthless about who gets our attention and who doesn’t.

When Gavin Quinn first wrote me about the Outsider Insight Project, I thought, “Great, another arts organization” and circle-filed it. Then he wrote again. And again. His notes were warm, wry, passionate and good-hearted. There seemed to be something special there, so I agreed to meet.

Firstly, Outsider Insight is definitely not just another arts organization. Gavin, is its coordinator and co-founder (along with Justina Dollard, executive director of the Veith Street Gallery Studio Association). He describes it as a group for “mental-health survivors”— anyone who has experienced mental-health issues, or had someone close to them experience them.

After being in and out of hospitals in his early 20s, Gavin was offered the chance to exhibit his photography and paintings with the Veith Street Gallery Studio Association, based in Veith House in Halifax. “It saved my life,” he says. “Outsider Insight has been a voice for me, and a lot of other people.”

Documentary photographer Anica James is one of those people. She’s been a member since August 2014 and is now assistant coordinator. “It’s about regaining confidence,” she says. “It’s really daunting, having to deal with the stigma that comes with mental illness. It’s scary to go out in the world. Having a safe space like this helps.”

The organization, now in its second year, had a gallery space in Veith House, but last month moved into new digs at  156 Ochterloney Street in Dartmouth. The Insight Gallery is a partnership between Outsider Insight and the Veith Street Gallery Studio Association. The new space is more accessible, giving the group more ability to host workshops and events. It hosts exhibitions (in just about every medium you can imagine) showcasing members’ work. Every Saturday in the summer, there’s a sidewalk market out front.

Around the end of July, the gallery will host its first solo show in the new space, spotlighting artist Andrew MacKeen Ross. Gavin is also excited to share that Josh Teasdale has joined the team as art sales coordinator. The group is also having success selling member-designed t-shirts, with the latest line coming to stores soon. Local indie shops like Fresh Goods, Sin on Skin, Cocoon Boutique and CD Heaven carry the designs.

The goal for Gavin (and it seems, everyone involved in this project) is to bring people in the doors. “People find us and they become part of our community,” he says. “We’re always trying to recruit people to join us. Everyone has someone in their lives who have dealt with mental-health issues, if they haven’t themselves.”

For more about this unique and remarkable gallery, surf to And we’re delighted to help Outsider Insight celebrate its launch by giving away a beautiful framed art photo by Gavin. Click here for your chance to win.

This is the last issue with Angela Mombourquette as our back-page columnist. For a year, she’s shared her keen and thoughtful insights; she’ll remain part of the Halifax Magazine family as a feature writer—look for more from her in future issues. See her last column on page 50, and join us next month to find out who is taking over the spot.


The version of this editorial that ran in the print edition of Halifax Magazine contained a few fact-checking errors in describing Outsider Insight and its history. The arts organization that Gavin Quinn first worked with was the Veith Street Gallery Studio Association, which rents space in Veith House. Justina Dollard, the Association’s executive director, was a co-founder of Outsider Insight. The new Insight Gallery on Ochterloney Street in Dartmouth is a partnership between Outsider Insight and the Veith Street Gallery Studio Association. The text above has been corrected. Halifax Magazine regrets the errors

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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