Art & Mental Illness: Every Brush Matters

Hi, all!

The festival is open *one more week*! Time has flown so make sure you plan what you’d like to view before closing time the evening of November 1st. And make sure to get your virtual votes in, we’ll give out a few awards later. It’s kind of silly, everything was selected for having merit, but it’s fun and one of those things that makes it feel like a “real festival.”

For those who watched “Mad Love” (and hopefully if you haven’t yet, now you’ll want to), in their interview artists & stars Issa Ibrahim & Susan Spangenberg mentioned the Fountain House Gallery in New York, a gallery and studio space for artists living with mental illness. That piqued my interest and I had to check out both of their artists’ pages there. As you could probably tell from the documentary, Issa has a style influenced more by pop culture and maybe societal critique whereas Susan’s work is more dreamlike and surreal.



Mental Filmness has a sort of connection to art therapy. The first guest the first year was Philip Brubaker, the filmmaker and artist behind Brushes With Life: Art, Artists, & Mental Illness, a documentary about a creative arts program, gallery, and exhibition for mentally ill patients who have been through a treatment center. The documentary featured a variety of different talented artists with various diagnoses talking about their work and how it helped them maintain balance.

In the Chicago area, I am aware of at least a couple of art programs designed as outlets for people living with mental illness. One is Project Onward in the Bridgeport Art Center, which provides artists with disabilities, including those living with a mental illness, with a space to create and exhibit their work. Their website is here:

Another is Thresholds, which provides housing for people living with mental illness as well as art therapy and opportunities to sell and exhibit their work.

Those are just two I am aware of, I know there must be others, as well as the creative therapy programs run in various hospital and outpatient settings. There is no doubt that making art has a positively therapeutic and healing effect on the brain: it can absorb focus and create flow so completely that anxiety and depression are temporarily pushed to the backburner and the mindfulness of completing the perfect stroke is the only thought in the world.

At least that’s how I feel. Me. Because I do have a deep, dark secret: I am an artist living with mental illness. And that’s why when Philip Brubaker asked me that first year if I thought the process of making art was just as important as having the finished product, I said “Absolutely.”

I feel like this is not really an appropriate forum to promote my art, but I actually did my own exhibition in support of mental disability awareness in 2017, as an artist living with bipolar disorder. It was for the Diversability Committee, the same disability awareness committee supporting the Goodnight Mr. Vincent Van Gogh screening on Wednesday evening (at 6:30 Central time, don’t forget). Which is, of course, at least partially about art and mental illness.…/mythical-creatures-art…/

So, art and mental illness. Everything comes full circle. I do recommend it as an outlet—draw or paint a little. It doesn’t even matter if you aren’t that happy with the results, I’m often not. The process can be very healing.

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