Faces and Voices
On the wall facing the Drop-In installation we placed 30 evocative black and white portraits of MPA members, shot at the Drop-In in 1975 and discovered in a Founder’s bedroom closet in 2012. Almost certainly, photographer Gord McCann would have developed the images on site in MPA’s own darkroom. The Drop-In quotations were taken from project oral histories.
Most of the people caught on camera in 1975 are unknown to us and to the MPA Founders associated with our projects. As is true for many mad people, these individuals may exist in a psychiatric case file in a dusty archive, but they have vanished from popular memory as people with complex lives, abiding passions and worth. In keeping with McCann’s powerful photographs, we left the oral history quotations anonymous.
All the people in Gord McCann’s photographs appear to be White, while the pages of the MPA In A Nutshell and footage from the NFB documentary show that the group’s membership was more diverse but still primarily non-racialized. One MPA Founder commented on the fact that Indigenous people from the nearby Indian Friendship Centre came to the Drop-In, and another recalled the space as, “pretty diverse racially.”
Acknowledging these complexities, these powerful portraits stand in place for the thousands of people who walked through the doors of the MPA Drop-In over the decade that it remained at 6th and Yew. They were curated by the late Geoff McMurchy, a MPA Founder and founding Executive/ Artistic Director of Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture. McMurchy and Megan Davies presented along with the quotations in this short video about the Drop-In at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Historical Association in Victoria, BC, in 2013.