Artistic message of hope adorns library

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Shelbi Rhein works on one of the computers at the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Behind her is a traveling exhibit of photos of the Mural on Main, on display through April. The project was a joint effort by ADAMH, ALTernative and Community for New Direction.

A mural commissioned on the Near East Side last summer by ADAMH was so successful in bringing home the message, "Treatment Works, Recovery Happens," that officials have turned photos of the project into a traveling exhibit.

Libraries provide the perfect setting to offer that message of hope to people battling addictions or dealing with mental illness, so that's where the show has been going, said David Royer, chief executive officer of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County.

The mural photos, which include not only the finished artwork but also the project as it developed, were on display last week at the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library after spending some time at the Main Branch downtown.

The Mural on Main exhibit will remain at the branch in Clintonville through the end of April, said ADAMH spokeswoman Aimee Shadwick.

The project was led by ALTernative, a nonprofit organization formed by architect Tim Lai and his wife, Eliza Ho. They also collaborated on the award-winning Ohio Birds mural at Glen Echo Ravine.

Michael Halliday was the primary artist for the ADAMH project, which was unveiled Aug. 15 on the walls of a building at 993 E. Main St., home to Community for New Direction.

Pop-art painter Joss Parker and two student painters also worked on the mural.

"We engage the community in our creative process," Ho said in a press release issued as the Mural on Main project was being launched.

"The design is inspired by Halliday's abstract expressionist art," Lai said in a statement at the time. "It is creativity and beauty that people of all ages can appreciate immediately."

"Our long-term goal is to have a series of murals around Franklin County consistent with the process that we started with the first one, and that is to allow the community to articulate its vision about both community and personal recovery," Royer said in an interview last week.

"What we're trying to portray is every person's recovery, whether it's from drugs or alcohol or mental illness ... and using a creative process to create the art, it allows for us to become more embracing of the idea people can recover from mental illness and addiction.

"In the end, we think it also destigmatizes mental illness and enhances our understanding of what recovery is."

ADAMH officials are seeking to have the Mural on Main traveling exhibit move on to other libraries after its run at the Whetstone branch, perhaps in Gahanna, Shadwick said.

Westerville and Dublin library officials also are being approached, Royer said.

"Libraries are public spaces, and they're quite reflective environments, so hopefully, people can take a minute with it, and in the process support the concept that public art is an important vehicle for communication and a reflection of our community values," Royer said.

"I think it's a really important concept," he added.