Upstairs, The Petersburg Area Mental Health Arts Collective
Since October of 2015, PAAL has been hosting approximately 15-20 adult clients from the Petersburg area on a bi-weekly basis. The clients come together to create and display visual art. This opportunity invites individuals to feel free to engage in a pursuit of self-discovery and then create an inspired physical product that represents that journey. The main focus is on identifying a common ground. In this environment, we make it a point to replace the word “patient” or “client” with “artist.” This initiative has been very successful and has engaged artists from various mental health agencies in the Tri-Cities area. The artists engage in painting, sculpture, jewelry making, coloring, DIY projects, journaling, photography, scrapbooking and other artistic activities. In other words, the world of art is at their disposal.
The artists have thoroughly benefited from the Collective. The counselors and “helpers” have personally seen a change in each and every one of them for the better. During one of their first public shows at the Petersburg Area Art League, the artists were ecstatic and overwhelmed with satisfaction to see their work on display. One artist in particular said that seeing his artwork on the wall made him feel “energized”. Another artist said that she felt “joy” when her friends and family came to see her work on display. These might appear to be simple words, but they are in actuality, emotional gems. Mental health issues can be debilitating, leaving the victim with only a few options for healing and recovery. With this program in place, these artists now have an even better chance at inclusion and community engagement. Here are some images from that show:
The narrative above was written by Bryant Pugh, former PAAL Board member and Founder/Director of the Petersburg Area Mental Health Arts Collective. Bryant’s busy work schedule has limited his time to devote to the Collective, but the program continues to thrive with the help of counselors from District 19 and other mental health agencies, who transport their clients to the sessions and stay and work with them on their various projects. Special guest artists from PAAL and the area community often present projects to the clients, as well. PAAL member Iris Schwartz is presently serving as the Coordinator of the Collective and performs live music on her flute and recorder while the clients work on their art. She often engages them in sing a longs and helps to get them in the spirit of the various upcoming holidays. The clients are also provided with snacks, sweets and various hot drinks during their 90 minute sessions. The responses from the clients are always positive and uplifting! Expressions like, “this is the best day of my life” and “I love being here” are often heard as they are leaving. The Arts Collective will be presenting an exhibit of their artwork in PAAL’s Members’ Gallery on January 11, 2019 for Friday for the Arts.