Humanizing is Destigmatizing

An artistic endeavour to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and HIV.


Since graduating from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Wheatley has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts; Arts Nova Scotia; and Arts Newfoundland Labrador. In 2012 Charmaine became an artist in residence for life at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, where she has had 2 long term exhibitions. Recent related portrait work includes two SU-CASA artist residencies with senior centers in 2016 through the Brooklyn Arts Council.

January 4th, 2017 through April 30th, 2018 Wheatley is the artist in residence at the University of Rochester in New York. Half the time working intimately with the mental health community creating portraits from life and the other half sitting with members of the HIV community in both Rochester and Buffalo.

Partners and Support

Individuals come from both Rochester and Buffalo, NY.  Locations for the sittings include the University of Rochester, Trillium Health, Evergreen Health (Buffalo, NY), Equal Grounds, Creative Wellness Opportunities, Strong Ties, Strong Recovery, and St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center.  We gratefully acknowledge the support of all of these organizations.  We would also like to especially thank those who have stood up to stigma by participating in this project.


Wheatley’s Artist-In-Residency and initiatives at the University of Rochester Medical Center have several sponsors.  They include the Center for AIDS Research, the Department of Psychiatry, the Division of Medical Humanities and Bioethics, URBEST, the Office of the SMD Vice Dean for Research, the Neuroscience Program and the School of Nursing - as well as programmatic support from the Department of Art and Art History.

How you can help!


People with mental health challenges, and those living with HIV are frequently marginalized and discriminated against.

University of Rochester Medical Center artist-in-residence, Charmaine Wheatley, believes that de-stigmatizing happens through humanizing.  As a result, each of her portraits involves an open hearted discussion with people affected by mental illness or by HIV.  Watercolored likenesses and words of individuals - in aggregate - a portrait of a community.

Creating portraits in this manner has become a regular part of Charmaine’s artistic practice.  During her ongoing residency at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, she sat in the “Living Room” with museum patrons and employees; an installation of 104 of these portraits is presently on view at the museum.

Recent related portrait work includes two residencies at senior centers in Brooklyn in 2016: Krakus in Greenpoint, which serves the Polish community, and Hope Gardens in Bushwick, serving the Hispanic population.

Nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small it takes time — we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time. 

Georgia O’Keeffe

Artist Biography

Charmaine Wheatley is a performance artist who records by watercolor drawing, typically housing works in pocket-sized tin boxes. She has published books: Beau Fleuve: The Heart of North America (2006), 30% of Buffalo (2009), and Brett's Ball (2014). In addition, her drawings have appeared in publications such as Border Crossings, FUKT, and C Magazine. Her art is held in international and library collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York.


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