Exploring Mental Health Through Art

January 30, 2017-April 17, 2017

Mindful: Exploring Mental Health Through Art explores a pervasive yet little-discussed issue that affects everyone. In Virginia alone, 1.1 to 1.5 million adults have some form of mental disorder. Of those, almost a quarter million adults live with coexisting mental health and substance abuse disorders. Close to one quarter of Virginia’s jail inmates live with a mental health disorder. These staggering numbers demonstrate that mental health issues touch all our lives. Yet, there are complex social stigmas surrounding mental disorders. We, as a society, are not comfortable discussing mental health issues or their ramifications. Not discussing an issue means that it cannot be addressed and improved upon. This must change.

Most societies view the symptoms associated with mental disorders as threatening and uncomfortable. These attitudes work to foster intolerance and discrimination. People who live with them experience prejudice both within their social circles and the workplace. Every facet of their lives can become affected. The feelings of shame that uninformed belief structures engender may prevent people from getting the help they may need.

This mindset towards mental health disorders stems from many causes. Historically, some cultures attributed mental health problems to spiritual or “demonic” possession. Those who had issues found themselves isolated and often brutalized. The misguided belief that someone with a mental disorder cannot function within regular society persists today. All this contributes to the silencing and stigmatizing of mental health issues.

Mindful hopes to dispel these flawed assumptions and to open the door to a wider dialogue. Through the lens of artists and contemporary craft, a conversation can begin. In this exhibition, 14 artists have created 40 works sharing their experience and viewpoint. Some of the artists have been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Others have close experience with a loved one who suffered. All offer insight into the impact that mental disorders have on their own lives and our society.

Arts can play a role to both encourage positive self-expression and guide effective mental health promotion and treatment. This exhibition includes a variety of techniques and forms rooted in traditional craft materials. The artists explore unexpected relationships between craft and painting, sculpture, conceptual, and installation art. As you move through the exhibition, hopefully you can make meaningful connections between the ideas that these artists are sharing and experiences in your own life. Perhaps this will lead us one step closer to bringing these important issues out into the light. Everyone deserves the opportunity to lead a happy, productive life.