The Capitol Showcase Consumer Art Exhibition

By on 19 May, 2017 in Amanda Burbank, Art with 0 Comments

Arctic Rain by Janelle

As I scanned the room, lingering over cheerful landscapes and cubist faces, my eyes were drawn to the blue and yellow butterflies with a spiky black sea urchin floating around a shadowy self. Green and purple dripped down the grey human form like wild, alive colors that had to escape. I stared for a long time before I turned to the story and saw to my surprise the vulnerability of this piece that had captured my attention. The artist had painted the very hallucinations that were still with her.

This piece was my introduction to The Capitol Showcase Consumer Art Exhibition put on by the Department of Mental Health every year during May‘s Mental Health Month.  I later learned some of the details of Clare’s story online at the Department of Mental Health’s Facebook page. I looked at the glowing creatures with new eyes and wondered at the woman who had learned to survive with them always on the periphery of her education, career, her whole life. I was inspired by her optimism and determination as she wrote of her future.

The Department’s art show promotes dignity among the people that they serve. They give individuals of all ages and artistic ability who participate in community mental health centers and group homes around the state a chance to share their stories and art with the public. As you read their stories you can see the exuberance from this marginalized community in being given this opportunity to be showcased.

Each piece of art in the show is accompanied by a short story written by the artist about his or her journey, their experiences and growth as they have utilized mental health services. Most share how art has played a role in the process. It is impossible to read these stories without feeling a sense of gravity that these aren’t “others” but they are us. They are amazing individuals who are working hard to overcome obstacles in their lives, improve their situations and live the best lives they possibly can.

Whether a piece is done on computer paper with crayons or an elaborate mixed media, next to it hangs its story and the pure heart of its creator cannot help but to move you as you view this bit of optimism in the face of daunting challenges.

As I walked through the gallery, the next piece my eyes were drawn to was an intricate and colorful drawing incorporating a landscape, a human face and brain. Colored lines crisscrossed the page. The sun rose within the landscape’s hand-drawn frame. I was moved by how Dominique, like Clare, described coping with symptoms that didn’t go away. Isn’t learning to ignore the critical voices and not being overcome by emotions so we can come to a place of contentment a very relatable human aspiration? His struggles were certainly escalated by his illness, yet he had reached a place of peace. We aren’t so different in our pursuit of a life well lived.

For many of those consumers of mental health services whose art is on display this year in The Capitol Showcase Consumer Art Exhibition, art is a part of their coping with their mental illnesses, developmental disabilities or substance use disorders. Most said that creating art helped them to relieve stress, cope with symptoms of their illness, relax, sooth themselves, get focused, or stay calm. One artist said, “I like to do art because there is no ‘right or wrong’ way to do it.”

There are 150 pieces in the show this year. They can be viewed along with their accompanying stories at the Alabama State Capitol at 600 Dexter Avenue. The artwork is on display in the Old Supreme Court Library which is straight ahead if you enter through the Dexter Avenue entrance. The show lasts from May 4 to June 16. You will notice prices on many of the stories. All proceeds go directly to the artists. If you wish to purchase an item please direct message the Department of Mental Health through their Facebook page or call 334-353-7538.

Amanda Burbank is an observer, savorer, poet, artist, mother, wife, and lover of beauty and life. Unexpected events found her family living nestled in the deep south woods within a family home built by her great grandfather. From there, she works as a freelance writer and photographer. Her heart is to live a life of acceptance and perhaps help others to see beauty in the unlikely through well crafted words and photographs of lovely ordinary everyday moments.

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