WOOSTER − Brian Friend returned to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Wayne and Holmes Counties van with a smile on his face.
Alongside his classmates and friends, he just toured some of the downtown stores and businesses displaying their pieces of art. For many, it was their first time presenting anything they created to the public.
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“It feels really good; this is my first having anything on display,” said Friend after the walk. “It’s really exciting.”
The 24 participating NAMI artists, including Friend, live with mental health conditions. Over the last year, they created personalized works of art in the MOCA House Recovery Program at NAMI.
Now, nearly 50 canvases and photos showcasing their artistic talents are on display and for sale at 16 downtown stores and businesses during this year’s Artists Among Us.
The exhibition ends Friday, Oct. 21.
Artists are among us
The goal of Artists Among us is to bring awareness to mental health recovery, NAMI Director of Advancement Jen Grim said.
In its third year, the event was born out of the pandemic and in conjunction with Main Street Wooster.
Each piece is under $100 and all proceeds return to NAMI and the MOCA program, she said.
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“We intend to keep doing it each fall,” Grim said.
For Main Street Wooster Project Coordinator Kerri Manley-Still, the event is something she always look forward to in the fall months.
“Jen reached out a few years ago and it was an amazing opportunity to work with volunteers and a nonprofit,” Manley-Still said.
She created a map of downtown with the locations of participating businesses highlighted.
Participating businesses include:
- NEST: 132 North Market St.
- Friendtique: 133 West Liberty St.
- Vertical Runner: 148 West Liberty St.
- Artfind Tile: 143 South Market St.
- Meraki Artistry Permanent Cosmetics: 230 South Market St.
- Broken Rocks/Rox Gastropub: 123 East Liberty St.
- JK Gift Shop: 144 East Liberty St.
- Graham & Burns: 142 East Liberty St.
- Undergrounds Cafe & Coffeehouse: 146 East Liberty St.
- Boba Bowl: 127 West Liberty St.
- Wayne County Public Library: 220 West Liberty St.
- Murr Printing: 201 North Buckeye St.
- Embellish Tattoo Company: 156 East Liberty St.
- Omahoma Bobs Barbeque: 128 South Market St.
- A Time to Craft, LLC: 149 North Walnut St.
- Walnut Street Gallery: 148 North Walnut St.
Celebrating the artists
Connie Barnard is a watercolor teacher at NAMI’s MOCA House Recovery Program.
She teaches a variety of painting techniques that use plastic wrap, salt and straws to add texture that creates a style of personalized funk to each painting.
Seeing her students display their creations is just one of the rewarding aspects of her time at NAMI.
“It’s powerful to have it on display,” Barnard said. “I think it’s fantastic to share with the community.”
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Students often enter Barnard’s classroom with low confidence, but she helps them overcome any mental blocks with practice, lessons and meditation.
She may start them off on 3-inch by 3-inch square canvases.
“It’s much less intimidating,” she said. “We will then start out class with breathing exercises and meditation.”
This makes her students less tense and reduces any anxiety they might have about painting.
Then she gives them a theme or multiple objects to incorporate into a picture.
“What they do with it is up to them,” Barnard said. “Everything they paint is unique.”
For Jennifer Hill, a MOCA attendee, the painting classes are therapeutic and relaxing.
“I really enjoy learning how to do it, and it’s fun to learn how to salt paintings,” Hill said.
About MOCA House Recovery Program
The free MOCA Recovery Program allows participants to better understand, cope and recover from their mental illnesses.
The program stands for motivating, optimistic, caring and accepting.
While addressing mental health is the primary concern at MOCA, Grim said the program helps to build skills, develop supportive friendships and work on recovery.
Art therapy is just one tool the staff at NAMI use to help people affected by mental health.
“In addition to art, participants attend support groups, play games, go walking or fishing, learn about nutrition, journal and more,” Grim said.
The program is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes some evening events.
For more information on NAMI’s mental health programs for individuals and families, call 330-264-1590, email email@example.com or visit www.namiwayneholmes.org.