Mike Galley with his work at the Humans of Maple Ridge exhibition. (Contributed)

Maple Ridge exhibition keeping opioid crisis in the spotlight

Humans of Maple Ridge now on display downtown Maple Ridge until Feb. 15

Mike Galley first went to jail when he was only 13-years-old.

The bio for him does not say for what only that he was adopted from Korea when he was a one-year-old and that after two years in prison he was released into foster care. The following years of his life involved drugs and troubles with the police. He has been in and out of jail his whole life.

He would eventually obtain his chef’s certificate from Vancouver Community College and now the former Anita Place Camp resident has moved into a basement suite and is a vegan chef at Paliotti’s Italian restaurant in Maple Ridge.

The 43-year-old goes on to say he enjoys painting, drawing,and “creating works of joy.”

He also likes to dabble in poetry and the music world.

“He was actually at the Humans of Maple Ridge gallery in April. He kind of sat in the corner and doodled through the event. I have one of his doodles from that event sitting on one of the tables in the gallery,” said project coordinator Kim Dumore.

Galley has nine paintings on display at the Humans of Maple Ridge display at the old Sticky’s candy store downtown Maple Ridge.

“We basically took the existing project and morphed it. We’ve opened the space up to other artists,” explained Dumore.

The initial Humans of Maple Ridge exhibition took place April 9.

Humans of Maple Ridge featured around 60 photographs taken by more than 45 participants from high school students to residents of Anita Place Tent City.

The mission behind the one-day photo exhibit was to eliminate the stigma of addiction.

The Opioid Overdose Response Task Force, the group behind the project, was formed in 2016 in response to the declaration of the former Liberal government of B.C., which declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

The group is backed by Fraser Health, local non-profits, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district, first responders and people affected directly by experience.

Since forming, members have been raising awareness through community forums and educational events, funded by the Overdose Prevention and Education Network Community Action Initiative.

The photo voice project was started after a call-out by the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research to support dialogues around opioid use and is solely participant driven.

More photographs have been added to this second exhibition, “that didn’t necessarily have the dialogue behind it,” explained Dumore.

The exhibition will also feature one additional painting by former Anita Place resident Tracy Scott, and three poems along with Maple Ridge Artist in Residence Kat Wahamaa’s Positive Resistance Quilt where each square is to signify positive resistance to negativity in the community.

Other projects will also be taking place in the space.

There will be a postcard project where people will be invited to write postcards home to their families, there will be a pop-up Naloxone training event and other art-based projects to keep the dialogue going around the opioid crisis and how to increase compassion in the community. They are considering a slam poetry night and a jam night for musicians and artists from the camp and community.

“It’s just really a multi-versatile, conversation space around the opioid crisis and its effects,” added Dumore whose goal is to continue to bring awareness to the opioid crisis and continue the conversation.

One photograph that sticks in Dumore’s mind talks about how nobody in their right mind would take a drug they know was going to kill them.

“The key part there is nobody in their right mind,” said Dumore.

“I think that this really is a tribute to a large number of mental health issues and the lack of support for that.”

The gallery will only be open to the public when special events are taking place and will be located at 11979 224 Street until Feb. 15.

Check the Stop Overdose Ridge Meadows Facebook page to see when the gallery is open. A calendar will also be posted on the front window of the gallery.

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