The institutionalization of people with intellectual disabilities in B.C. began more than 100 years ago with the creation of Woodlands institution in New Westminster. It ended on October 21, 1996 when Woodlands’ last two residents moved to their new homes in the community.
With their departure, B.C. became the first province in Canada to close all its large institutions for people with intellectual disabilities.
From the Inside/OUT! was a multimedia art exhibit that weaved together stories from 28 people who lived in Woodlands, Tranquille, Glendale Lodge and the Endicott Centre. Some spent one or two years living in an institution. Others spent as many as 35 years. Together, their experiences contribute to an important, but little known, chapter of BC.’s social history – one that is in danger of being lost as people age and pass on.
The core of the installation was drawn from stories that were gathered during an oral history project initiated in 1996. Then, in the spring of 1997, artist Persimmon Blackbridge was invited to collaborate with the storytellers, and a committee from the B.C. Self Advocacy Foundation, to create what would become From the Inside/OUT!
In the months leading up to the first installation of this exhibit in October 1998, small groups of storytellers worked with Persimmon to create individual and collective pieces of visual art based on their memories of institutional life and their return to community. In addition, two soundscapes were composed from the many hours of audiotape gathered during the original oral history project.
From the Inside/OUT! was produced by the BC Self Advocacy Foundation and Inclusion BC (then BCACL), in partnership with BC artist Persimmon Blackbridge.
While the exhibit is no longer running, Inclusion BC used photography to preserve the exhibit, which can now be viewed online.