Healing through art at Boynton

Active Minds creates a dialogue for those dealing with mental illness by exhibiting cathartic art

“Untitled (Self Portrait)” by Broc Blegen paints the picture of a lonely boy who just wants to play. PHOTO COURTESY ACTIVE MINDS

Ashley Goetz

“Untitled (Self Portrait)” by Broc Blegen paints the picture of a lonely boy who just wants to play. PHOTO COURTESY ACTIVE MINDS

WHAT: Awake: Seeing Mental Health through Art, opening reception WHERE: Boynton Health Service, Main Floor WHEN: Thursday, May 7, 5-7 p.m. In the front lobby of Boynton is a door that, like many doors in Boynton, leads to a room in which people are healing. Overcoming a mental illness can often involve taking drugs or going through psychological examinations, but a group on campus is experimenting with a new kind of medicine: art. Behind the doors in Boynton is an exhibit called âÄúAwake,âÄù put together by a local chapter of Active Minds, a national program that seeks to change the way that mental health is seen on college campuses. Thirteen student-artists contributed their works to this new type of treatment that seeks to give voice to an affliction that for some has been hard to express. Nellie Brau, a French and global studies sophomore and an Active Minds officer, explained that art helps to aid a dialogue about mental health, explaining that âÄúmental health is a little more intimate and not everyone is willing to open up about it.âÄù The gallery, she said, is not only a unique way to create more awareness, education and advocacy for issues of mental health, but it has also been a form of recovery for the artists whose works are on display. Over 35 works of various media were originally submitted for the show, a number far greater than expected by organizers. In the end, due to limits of the size of the relatively small T-shaped gallery being used, 17 works were selected from 13 different artists. The only guideline for submission was that the art had to be an expression of the artistâÄôs experiences with mental health either personally or through someone they knew. All of the works that were selected for the show were made before the artists had heard of the show, sometimes even years before. Sara Paul, a senior graduating this December with a degree in art, said her painting âÄúStop Rewind Record RejectâÄù was âÄúa work about myself coping with personal experience.âÄù The painting features bold, black brush strokes that gained a distinctive heaviness because they were painted with a tampon. The strokes surround a yellow oval at the bottom of the canvas that contains four female torsos branded with red buttons of the title. Paul said she had tried different forms of healing but in the end found art to be the most âÄúall encompassingâÄù way to cope. âÄú[Making art] feels good to me but it is also so fresh, it is a big step,âÄù Paul said of displaying her artwork. Broc Blegen, a sophomore art major, whose âÄúUntitled (Self Portrait)âÄù takes on his personal experience with depression, agrees that artwork has helped him better understand himself and his struggle. âÄúI painted it last summer in an isolated and sad place,âÄù said Blegen, whose featured work is the outline of a head on a white canvas with fleeting glances of color giving the impression that the color of his life had been faded out. âÄúSometimes I feel silly explaining my feelingsâÄù, said Blegen, who explained that he likes using art because he can âÄúthrow something on the wall, which can show how I feel with much more complexity.âÄù Both artists were happy to know that through the exhibit their works will help others dealing with similar issues. âÄúOur age group is when people often are working through stuff,âÄù Blegen said. âÄúI want to reach out to other women to know that they were not alone,âÄù Paul added. As Brau put it, âÄúnot everyone is ready to come to an Active Minds meeting,âÄù though she is hopeful that through this new form of outreach the dialogue about mental health will grow and the stigma of talking about it erased. To Brau, the gallery seemed like a natural way to bring awareness to the issues surrounding mental health: âÄúArt made perfect sense. It is a way that people can express themselves more creatively and make a message about how they are feeling. It is a good way to get conversations started.âÄù