As a multi-passionate person, I typically have more ideas floating around in my head than I can put into action. Sometimes those ideas hang around a while without taking root and eventually fade. Other times, though, the idea sticks around just long enough to collide with another bit of knowledge or creativity, and a new idea emerges.
“Faces of Mental Health Recovery” is the product of one of those moments. Inspired by the Inside Out Project, I’d been wanting to do a wheat paste portrait project for a few years. Last fall I met Shelley Bishop and learned about I’m the Evidence, a mental health awareness campaign that shares the story of people’s recovery from mental illness as an example of hope and human potential. Soon after that, the idea to do a public art project with I’m the Evidence struck me. This weekend I’ll be leading the photography workshop portion of it, and I’ll share more as it moves along.
For now, here are the basics of this project that’s giving me oodles of creative excitement.
What is “Faces of Mental Health Recovery”?
Faces of Mental Health Recovery is a public art project that engages people in recovery from mental illness, as well as their supporters, in learning photography and producing poster-sized black and white portraits to display publicly.
Well there’s me, obviously. (Or as the press releases say, “artist and community organizer Kara Newhouse.”) There’s Shelley, and two staff members of the Mental Health Association in PA, which is the home of the I’m the Evidence campaign.
The Perry County Council of the Arts [PCCA] has also been part of planning the project and will host the art exhibition.
And there are eight people who are either in recovery from mental illness or the supporters of those in recovery. They are the ones who will create the actual artwork of the project.
What are the steps?
The project kicks off with a two-day photo workshop that I’m leading. Participants will learn the basics of photography and produce portraits of each other that convey the values of the I’m the Evidence campaign: belief, hope, giving, connectedness, action, example, encouragement and possibility.
At the end of September, the participants and organizers will come together again to apply poster-sized black-and-white versions of the portraits onto wooden panels using wheat paste, a street art technique. The panels will be hung from the wrap-around porch at PCCA’s community art space, Landis House, so that passersby can see them. An exhibition inside Landis House will display additional portraits and the participants’ stories of how they are the evidence that mental health recovery is possible.
Where can I see it?
An opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Oct. 11 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., during Mental Illness Awareness Week. If you’re in Central PA, please come to see it and meet the participants and organizers, including me!
Landis House is located at 67 N. 4th St. in Newport, PA. It is free and open to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m., on first Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and by appointment. The exhibition will run through Nov. 22.