Tuggeranong Arts Centre's new exhibition On Thin Ice is an arts-documentary collaboration between journalist and author Ginger Gorman, photographers Hilary Wardhaugh and Martin Ollman, sculptor Tom Buckland and printmaker Jess Higgins.
It tells the stories of six Canberrans who have been living with, or recovering from, addiction to crystal methamphetamine aka ice.
Through photography, sculpture, printmaking, audio recordings and the written word, each artist has worked with participants to create work that "reflects the impact of addiction, challenges faced and hopes for the future".
Ginger Gorman spoke with recovering addicts, including Paul, and found drug dependence was complex.
"[He told me] you don't wake up one day and decide to become a drug addict," she said.
"The brave people in our project have backstories of child hood and intergenerational trauma. Life has thrown terrible things in their path - like domestic violence, medical trauma and poverty. And drugs have become a way to cope.
"Addiction is a disease - and these folk are fighting with all their hearts to get better. These are human stories of hope and courage."
Tuggeranong Arts Centre CEO Rauny Worm said the exhibition went beyond headlines and stereotypes, beyond snap judgments and prejudices, beyond "meth crisis" and "ice epidemic".
"These people are part of our community and the stigma and isolation too often placed on them only makes their arduous journey to recovery more difficult," she said.
" By sharing stories of recovery, we hope to use the arts to encourage empathy in the broader community and promote recovery as a collective effort."
Sculptor Tom Buckland said while creating his work for the exhibition, he was reminded that addiction happens to people from all walks-of-life.
"Listening to and connecting with the participant's stories and exploring key moments from their lives gave me special insight into the burden of addiction," he said.
"I hope my small sculptural dioramas create a bridge between audience and subject and in doing so bring deeper consideration of those who are suffering."
Printmaker Jess Higgins made large wood carvings showing figures bound and falling. One large-scale work of two figures intertwine in the shape of a circle reflected her theme of "unbroken cycle and the system".
"I began to realise that a at some point in these people's lives, they had been let down by the system, fallen through the cracks. I had to create a work that reflected this idea and feeling I had.," she said.
The exhibition opens at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre on Thursday at 6pm.
There will be live music followed by a panel discussion about how and why people become addicted to ice, what the barriers are to recovery and how society can better support recovery. Facilitated by Gorman, the panel includes minister Shane Rattenbury and a participant in the project. Attendance is free however, bookings are essential. Click here to book.