ArtRx is one of three programming divisions at ArtWorks that encourages growth and inspires hope by providing artistic opportunities for co-design and the co-creation of art in partnership with ArtWorks youth Apprentices, professional artists and individual community members. Through our commitment to improving experiences for youth facing emotional, physical and situational hardship, we transform healthcare and community environments in creative partnership with youth, families and staff, in addition to providing unique co-design opportunities through the creation of customized superhero capes.
As a proven leader in co-creation and community engagement, we are broadening our focus to include supporting awareness and advancement of key regional issues by working with organizations who work on the frontlines of these issues, to create dialogue through art. Through co-design and creative engagement we aim to promote health and wellness, spark conversation and invoke empathy.
This department is made up of a dynamic team of individuals including Marie Krulewitch-Browne, the department Director, and Megan Rahill, the ArtRx Manager.
This blog post was written by Megan Rahill.
This year, the ArtRx Department received a grant from Interact for Health to plan a public/community art project in Cincinnati that will reduce the stigma around the issue of Mental Health. Marie and I were lucky enough to get to do some traveling as part of our research to mentor with organizations whose knowledge and feedback could inform our planning for this project.
In June, we traveled to San Francisco to meet with organizations such as Bring Change 2 Mind and Mental Health Association of San Francisco, who work specifically to reduce mental health stigma and We learned a lot about different perspectives on the stigma against mental health and strategies for how to reduce it, such as social marketing campaigns and reclaiming the language used to describe people affected by mental health issues.
At the beginning of August, Marie and I traveled to New York City to meet with organizations that work in socially engaged art and community engagement to discuss how we might empower socially engaged artists to create the most effective public art work to dispel stigma around mental health. There are many amazing organizations in NYC who are doing great work in communities using socially engaged art and artists to create social change, and we met with just a handful of them. The first organization we met with was StooPs which is an organization working specifically in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and they engage artists from the neighborhood to do performances, visual art workshops and other interactive art on the stoops of the neighborhood. In Brooklyn, stoops are an iconic symbol of the community’s identity and serve as organic gathering places and community centers. We learned about the importance of community organizing and cultural sensitivities, and it inspired us to think more about ways that we can creatively engage Cincinnati’s neighborhoods around community issues by reaching them in places that they already use frequently.
Our next stop was Fountain House Gallery which is a gallery representing local artists who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. It is an entity of Fountain House which is a non-profit dedicated to the recovery of people with mental illness by providing opportunities for them to live, work and learn, while contributing their talents through a community of mutual support. Individuals with artistic ability or interest are referred to Fountain House Gallery and are then eligible to participate in monthly shows displayed in the gallery, where their work is often sold to the public. We learned about how they recruit curators to put together the monthly shows based around a theme (this month’s theme was Connected/Disconnected), and were inspired to find similar organizations close to Cincinnati that could serve as a connection to artists living with mental health issues who we could work with on this project.
Our next visit was to the studio of artist Dread Scott, who we were very excited to meet. Dread is an artist who “makes revolutionary art to propel history forward” and addresses themes of race and power within his thought-provoking and often controversial works. We had a very interesting conversation with him about addressing subjects that are taboo, as mental health is definitely one of these and it was fascinating to get his perspective on what it means for art to create dialogue.
We then visited More Art, an organization that worked with Dread Scott to create his performance piece “On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide” underneath the Manhattan Bridge Archway. More Art is an organization whose mission is to “foster collaborations between professional artists and communities to create public art and educational programs that inspire social justice.” They commission art projects in the community that adhere to the principles of socially-engaged art. It was very interesting to learn about their process, as they match an artist with a community and then based on the artist’s exploration with the community, they identify an issue they wish to address and an art project to do so. Currently, this is quite different from our process so we learned a lot from this perspective shift.
On our final day in NYC, Marie was able to meet with Groundswell, an organization that is similar to ArtWorks in that they have artists and youth create murals. What is different about them is that their murals only address social issues, such as street harassment, incarceration, etc. It was wonderful to learn from an organization that we have admired from afar for so long. We have definitely been inspired to think of how we can incorporate our Apprentices into the mental health public art project.
Our trip to New York City was incredibly inspiring and we thank all of the people who met with us, as well as special thanks to Interact for Health for making this possible!