Originally Published in The Star by Dominik Kurek
For 28-year-old Nicholas Wannamaker, art is a lifeline.
“I do art because I’ve never gotten mental health help, so basically everything I do is me dissecting a part of my soul that’s been fractured, damaged, and it’s basically an exploration and representation of the healing I’m trying to do,” the Lawrence and Warden Avenue area resident said.
But Wanamaker, who bounced around in foster care throughout southern Ontario, didn’t come to art naturally. He was never presented with opportunities for it growing up. His only constant companion and mentor as a kid was TV.
“My dads were Jim Carrey, Leonardo DiCaprio, any big actor from the ’90s.”
It was when he became an adult and got out of the foster care system that he reached the darkest moment of his life, not knowing how to live.
“I was broke, alone, broken, in an apartment that I owed too much money on,” he said. It was at that moment, when he had nothing else, that he started creating art.
“It’s literally a cliche. I literally had nothing and was going down, but then it just inverted. Once I started creating, I started coming back up.”
He enrolled in Seneca College’s fashion arts program, which is how he ended up living in Toronto. He now creates one-of-a-kind clothing, which he sells through his underbellysociety label. Plus he paints, illustrates, writes, hosts a podcast, performs in a hip hop group and more. He also advocates for WoodGreen Community Services’ Free 2 Be program, which supports people exiting the foster care system, and hosts art workshops for clients of that program. He said creating art is therapy, which is why he teaches it to what he calls “veterans” of the foster care system.