Megan Loftus said she is not the same person she was when her painting, “ComFest ’09,” was completed.

Footloose and fancy free, the young woman in the painting is carrying two cups of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, traipsing through the crowd at ComFest, the annual summer music-and-arts festival in Columbus’ Goodale Park.

“My No. 1 goal at that point was fun,” said Loftus, one of 64 artists displaying 93 pieces in the “Operation Monarch: Addressing Substance Abuse, Recovery and the Role of Art” exhibit on display until May 11 in the Columbus Cultural Arts Center, 139 W. Main St. in downtown Columbus.

An artists’ reception is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 5, at the center, which is operated by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.

The partying for Loftus was an illusion because the dark clouds once on the horizon were moving in quick, she said.

“My fun things were pushing away reality,” said Loftus, who graduated with a fine-arts degree from the University of Cincinnati.

Like Loftus, most of the artists in the exhibit have personally struggled or have been touched by addiction.

The artists worked in a variety of media to help convey their messages of anger, hopelessness, sadness and serenity in the exhibit, which is free and open to the public.

For example, Nora Daniel used vibrant oranges, burnt tangerine, red and pulsating blue-green hues to capture emotion in her painting, “Crackers.”

In depicts three women, one with her head in her hands and two others lying on the floor, one holding a syringe and the other with a needle stuck in her leg. A dog is positioned over one of the bodies, and a cat in the distance is resting on four paws.

Daniel, 53, said the portrait is open to interpretation.

“You have to look more and you see more and more,” Daniel said.

She said she has been touched by the heroin and opioid epidemic, but she declined to speak about it in detail.

“We all need to be involved in it,” she said of shining light on addiction. “I’m happy to have this opportunity to participate, to bring awareness to this issue.”

Daniel, a Bexley resident, said she hopes to sell her painting and give 30 percent to Fresh AIR Gallery in downtown Columbus. AIR is an acronym for Artists in Recovery.

Beverly Goldie, one of the curators for “Operation Monarch,” said some of the artwork will be on sale during the exhibit.

She said the exhibit on addiction and its collateral damage sends an important message.

“This subject isn’t really in art that much,” Goldie said. “You don’t go to art galleries and see this theme.”

Goldie said much more is planned throughout the exhibit, such as a play, conversations and coffee with the artists and a poetry showcase.

Meanwhile, Loftus said, she has been sober since 2014.

“Heavenly Lines,” her other painting on display, shows an urban sunset, a cloud gleaming with an array of colors and a utility line crisscrossing the painting.

Loftus, who grew up in Dublin, said it is meant to show the honesty, beauty and comfort of something many people take for granted.

“Recovery begins at the soul,” said Loftus, 31, who works for a scenic-art studio in Cincinnati. “Recovery is a whole lifestyle change.”

 gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary