Movements around the world in recent years have grappled with the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
Celebrities, athletes and other prominent figures have been more open about their mental health issues and the things they do to deal with them.
Those who are behind a new creative collaboration in Delaware hope to take this conversation one step further – and closer to home – by inspiring dialogue through a community-wide art installation.
Winterthur, Duffy’s Hope and the Spiral Cemetery have partnered with The Creative Vision Factory to raise awareness of mental health issues through the installation of colorful mosaic benches designed by artists and set up in different parts of the state.
The hope with this project is that these “eye-catching works of art” will spark a much-needed conversation about “the issues surrounding underserved youth, the mentally ill and the destitute,” according to the project leaders.
The tiles for each bench are either handmade or pieces of recycled material from previous projects by Creative Vision Factory or Habitat for Humanity Restore. They were assembled by the artists as well as by volunteers from the community.
The Creative Vision Factory, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in December, has always been a strong advocate for mental health. The organization’s mission, according to their website, is “to foster the creative potential of individuals on the behavioral health spectrum in a studio art environment that cultivates integration with the local arts community through a program. exhibitions, workshops and common workspace. “
“They almost look like pieces from Tetris,” says Michael Kalmbach, director of The Creative Vision Factory of the new benches. “It’s a bench that also has a built-in planter. So each bench will have some kind of plant growth coming out of it.”
This is because the colorful benches look a lot like pieces of Tetris, as each piece depends on the next to stand. The colors blend together, the shades changing from a darker color to a lighter color.
Two special benches featuring ceramic portraits by an anonymous street artist, Hope Hummingbird, will appear outside Duffy’s Hope and the New Castle County Hope Center.
A portrait of Alice Dunbar-Nelson, the American poet, journalist and political activist will appear outside Duffy’s Hope. The all-blue portrait shows a proud-looking Dunbar-Nelson in a wide-brimmed hat.
Duffy’s Hope is a non-profit organization for at-risk youth ages 12 to 17 located in Wilmington. He has served over 4,500 young people.
Outside the New Castle County Hope Center, a homeless shelter transformed into a hotel, will be a bench that will have personal significance to the center staff as well as to the Creative Vision Factory. This bench will display a portrait of former Creative Vision Factory project manager Michael Solomon, who died last July. The portrait, also done by Hope Hummingbird, shows a smiling Solomon with a brush in each hand.
The installation of another bench was underway this month, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, in Winterthur.
The Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library have played an important role in Delaware’s history since it opened in 1951. Since then, it has grown into one of the nation’s most important Americana collections.
“I think Winterthur, as an institution, is also looking for ways to roll up its sleeves and get involved,” Kalmbach said.
For the Winterthur bench, the artists use pieces of broken crockery in each of the tiles. These pieces come from the artists themselves, other employees, or even former volunteers. One plate comes from the family of President Joe Biden.
“My Aunt Mary just sent me a whole bunch of things I can break that represent my grandmother… There are dishes that my wife and I received from our wedding. The benches are just going to be made up. of all these pieces of family history, ”Kalmbach said.
Winterthur has been involved in community art projects in the past and saw the value of this collaboration across Delaware.
“What I hope, and what I think will happen, is that Winterthur will continue, in various ways, to provide resources – be it people or inspiration or just people. ‘a place to come and be inspired,’ said Catharine Dann Rober, Acting Director. academic programs in Winterthur.
Another mosaic bench was designed for installation at the Spiral cemetery.
The cemetery, located at the Delaware Psychiatric Center near New Castle, is home to more than 700 graves of unclaimed patients who died there between 1891 and 1983. It was recently renovated after years of neglect.
“I think we really need to stress the fact that we are all part of the human family,” said Faith Kuehn of Spiral Cemetery.
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