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Interviews, Music

Interview: Toronto Arts Group “In Bloom” Opens Dialogue on Youth Mental Health Through Music

By: Shannon Kurlander –

To honour the 20th anniversary of the tragic suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, Nicola Spunt, Kathleen Munroe, and Liane Balaban will celebrate his legacy by hosting a community event to raise awareness for mental illness and promote art and discussion in Toronto.

As Nirvana fans, the three friends began conversations early last year to create In Bloom: A Celebration of Teen Spirit and the Arts, a multi-arts initiative that commemorates Cobain 20 years on to raise awareness for youth mental health and promote the arts, with fundraising efforts provided to Delisle Youth Services. Spunt says the cause immediately came to mind because of Cobain’s influence and support of the arts during his troubled life.

“He’s a revolutionary icon of cool,” Spunt says. “Yet he nevertheless struggled with the same issues that everyone struggles with, and even more intensely struggled with depression.”

The title “In Bloom” was aptly chosen from the Nirvana catalog because it carries two meanings. While the phrase invokes spring, growth, and flourishing, Spunt points out that the song’s lyrics convey a more weighted connotation. “Your identity is flourishing but there’s also the flip side of being in bloom: there’s a struggle to understand and make your place in the world”.

Identity is a central theme of the event, designed to give a voice for youth members to speak openly about the trials of coming-of-age, mental illness, and the pervasive stigma attached. Spunt continues, “Youth are not often given a serious platform to articulate their own issues and concerns”.

The first In Bloom event was a youth-led multi-arts show held on March 20, hosting art pieces that explored themes of identity, prepared by Toronto youth from Etobicoke School of the Arts, Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute and Delisle Youth Services through mentorship programs.

The culminating benefit show, Come As You Are, will take place at The Great Hall, on Thursday, May 6th, perfectly aligned to occur during Mental Health Week and Canadian Music Week. In partnership with SiriusXM Canada, the event’s lineup features artists such as By Divine Right, Luke Lalonde of Born Ruffians, and a special performance by a surprise youth guest. SiriusXM Canada talent, Gina Kennedy, will host the event. Spunt is excited for the confluence of performers during one of Toronto’s biggest music-centric festivals, noting that “the arts community in Toronto is by far one of the city’s riches assets … the success would not exist without the insane generosity and collaborative spirit that exists in Toronto”.

All proceeds for the concert will go towards Delisle Youth Services and organizers have set up an online donation page at IndieGoGo.

You can buy tickets here.

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