A new exhibit at the Upper Arlington Municipal Services Center seeks to use art to strike at stigmas associated with mental illness and substance abuse.
The first partnership between the Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Division and Fresh A.I.R. Gallery has yielded a new forum for four artists affected by mental illness and substance abuse to share their creative visions and life experiences.
The Fresh A.I.R. Gallery exhibition opened Jan. 7 and will run through Jan. 31 at Concourse Gallery at the municipal services center, 3600 Tremont Road.
The exhibition features the works of Dr. Rosemary Matich, Paul Wilbur, Michael Coppage and Shannon Cameron, who all have taken part in Fresh A.I.R. Gallery's monthly Artist Circles.
Fresh A.I.R. Gallery, 131 N. High St., Columbus, is a venue for individuals affected by mental illness and/or substance abuse to exhibit their art.
Through art, the gallery attempts to educate the greater community and dispel fears and misconceptions about people facing those issues.
It's one of four art galleries -- the others are in New York City, Vancouver and Chicago -- that specifically exhibit work by people affected by mental illness and/or substance abuse.
"The works are in a variety of mediums, including photography, mixed media, pastels, acrylic and oil paints," said Lynette Santoro-Au, Upper Arlington arts manager. "The works are interpretations of the theme 'portrait' and many of them reveal the artists' experiences with their illnesses."
Santoro-Au said the Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Division's Cultural Arts Commission and Visual Arts Committee members selected the Fresh A.I.R. Gallery exhibition because of the quality of the artists' works.
They also support the gallery's objectives, she said.
"Any group whose mission is to break down stereotypes and reveal the transformative power of the arts is doing important work," she said. "Not all of the artists are professionally trained or have degrees in art, (but) they are all passionate about expressing themselves through their art.
"In many cases, the art began in therapy and has become so integral to their lives it is therapy."
Kim Webb, Fresh A.I.R. Gallery manager, said she hopes the Concourse Gallery exhibit will bring more attention to the featured artists and their talents.
Conversely, she said the exhibit is an opportunity "to show that people are individuals and artists are not to be defined by their illnesses."
"Art is so personal and it allows for a better understanding of what people are going through and their views of the world," Webb added. "It's a communication tool."
The Fresh A.I.R. Gallery exhibition in the Concourse Gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tours also can be made by appointment with Santoro-Au, who can be reached at 614-583-5312.