2020 SPEAKERS

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR & SPEAKER – CALEB BEYERS

The middle of 3 brothers raised by a single-mother, Caleb Beyers went through 7 different schools before attending Harvard University, where he earned his AB with honours in psychology in 2003. While at Harvard, he was a member of the Varsity Heavyweight Crew, an editor of the Harvard Lampoon Magazine, and an art director at Harvard Student Agencies’ Graphic Design studio and Let’s Go Travel guides.
Following a stint as a film teacher and rowing coach at Shawnigan Lake School, Caleb toured North America with various bands as a photographer and merchandise manager. He returned to Victoria in 2005 and became actively engaged in the arts community: participating in, and organizing shows, and publishing books and zines. His work as an artist led to his first commercial design commission, Habit Coffee, for which he designed the business’ brand and interior space.
In 2008 he lived in New York City, where he worked on large-scale commercial campaigns, before returning to Canada where he founded Caste Projects with his wife, Hanahlie Beise. Under the Caste Projects Banner, he has created brand-strategy, campaigns, interiors, and visual identities for numerous Victoria brands, including Hoyne Brewing, Big Wheel Burger, Victory Barbers, Rifflandia Festival, Superbath Mobile Carwash, and Chester Fields. One of Caste Projects’ largest undertakings was the development of a new branding & communications platform, and the facilitation of a complete project redesign for one of Victoria’s largest urban developments: Dockside Green. The mission of Caste Projects is to use business as a tool for catalyzing culture, and to stimulate the local economy through the creation of local brands with uncommon character, humor, and aesthetic sensibility.
While Caleb maintains an active interest in issues relating to culture & vibrancy in the urban fabric, he now lives on Pender Island with his wife, where they raise Alpacas, and produce yarn under the brand name Hinterland. In 2017 and 2018 he developed character designs for two animated TV show projects which sold to Netflix and Fox. While the fate of those projects is unclear, Caleb is currently busy developing his own animated show concepts, drawing characters as well as writing scripts.

SPEAKER – ELAINE ALEC

“For most of my life, I felt that I’ve struggled with the things that have gone on inside my head. As a child, I had my highs and lows but I managed to work through the rough spots because I had to. I grew up with an alcoholic mother, so I had to learn how to be in control in the chaos.
I became a raging alcoholic at the age of 12 and began abusing valium at 14.
I was 15 when my mom sent me to my first therapist and not long after that I was referred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with cyclothymia after our first session.
I had my ups and downs, dealing with chronic disease, chronic fatigue and chronic depression. I have had full blow and crippling anxiety attacks and there were times that I experienced such highs that I felt invincible.
It wasn’t until I attempted suicide at 22 years of age that I decided I needed to start making changes in my life if I wanted to live. I began incorporating different routines into my life, learned about taking charge of my health and did my best to stay on track.
I failed many times but my goal was to be a good mom who could provide for her son. A majority of my mental health and wellness challenges stemmed from unresolved trauma and I worried that opening up that box would throw me over the edge. I was scared that I might not recover if I had to deal with the things I kept locked up inside.
I started small and named a few places I could start and worked on that, and as I worked through them, and acknowledged things, I was able to work through them.
It’s been a long road and I still work on my triggers every day, but every day gets easier. Some days are tough but I now have hope and confidence that I will work through it and come out stronger on the other side.” – Elaine Alec

SPEAKER – ELLA HALE

Ella Hale is a recent highschool graduate who began the Community, Family, and Child Studies program at Camosun College this fall. She hopes to transfer to UVic to pursue a bachelor degree in Social Work.
Over the past 3 or so years, Ella has struggled with Depression, Anxiety, BPD, suicidal ideation and self-harm causing her to be in and out of hospital, seeing multiple therapists and psychiatrists, and suffering through countless medication trials. Ever since Ella was young, she was fiercely independent and incredibly social which has helped her get through these difficult periods in her life.
Unfortunately, due to her resiliency, Ella is viewed as ‘high functioning’ which has hindered her ability to get help. Ella volunteers at the Saanich Peninsula Youth Health Clinic which allows her to see how sharing her story and experiences can benefit those around her and create some much needed changes within the mental health system.

SPEAKER – SUZANNE VENUTA

Suzanne is a mental health educator, advocate, consultant and inspirational speaker. She writes and speaks from lived experience.
Her speaking engagements have included high school and college psychology, nursing and social worker, students. Suzanne teaches professional development workshops and speaks to medical interns on how best to support their patients with mental health challenges. She is presently working with a group to help family physicians better understand the implications of adverse childhood experiences.
Suzanne has worked on various boards, writes blogs on mental health, as well as her hiking and travel adventures. In 2008 Suzanne did a piece for C.B.C. radio on living with Dissociative Identity Disorder. She was the recipient of the 2018 Coast Mental Health Courage to Come Back Award in the Mental Health category. Suzanne is presently working on her memoirs.

SPEAKER – JOHNNY FREM DIXON

Johnny Frem Dixon has been an honours student, athlete, musician, and valedictorian. In his first year at college, he was flunking all his courses. He couldn’t understand this radical reality shift. During four years of “crazy theorizing,” he imagined he might be the second coming of Christ, the pawn of aliens, and more. Medication didn’t improve this thinking. He was suicidal and seldom slept. What finally helped Johnny was a caring, accepting, non-judgmental, curious community of fellow humans. That was forty-some years ago. In the spring of 2018, Johnny told a 10-minute story at the Victoria Event Centre’s “Confabulation” about his journey back from schizophrenia, which had developed during his first stab at University in the early 1970’s. He has been fully recovered and functional since 1978.  Johnny co-founded and was the host of Vancouver Story Slam for many years. At present Johnny is studying at U.Vic., working on a memoir of those years of living with schizophrenia.