FACEing Mental Illness work- shops connect art and stigma

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Despite how increasingly knowledgeable we become with mental illnesses, the stigma behind the existence, treatment and diagnosis of such is deeply ingrained in within not just the United States, but many nations and cultures across the world. “FACEing Mental Illness: The art of Acceptance” is a community-wide art project led by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, birthed with the goal of breaking that stigma by putting a face to the whole of mental illness itself. Not just one face will do, however: anyone in the area who lives with a mental illness is encouraged to submit their own self portraits, or attend one of the many workshops that will be thrown, so that viewers know the face of mental illness is not a face of one – it is the face of many, and anyone.

All that is required of the art is that it be a “self portrait,” in “any artistic medium that expresses how they feel about their challenges or how they feel they are perceived by others.” Artists will be interviewed, and video and audio-taped by Carrie Seidman of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, for their own stories in a weekly column. Workshops will be held in November, December and January, with all kinds of art supplies provided, as well as professional artists present for advice or guidance.

“The project will culminate in a free exhibition at the Ringling College of Art in Design in March 2017,” the project prospectus reads. “In which all the artwork and stories will be displayed and a national mental health advocate will speak. A documentary film following the progress of the entire project will also be produced.”

In-kind and philanthropic contributions are graciously accepted, as anything ranging from art supplies to money helps. A project fund has been established at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation – which keeps donations tax-deductible – so to make a contribution, send a check, made out to the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and with “FACEing Mental Illness Project Fund” written in the memo line. Call Kristin Taylor at 941-486-4615 for any questions regarding contributing.

“All of the people who deal with mental illness are of all ages and races, and all types,” Carrie Seidman of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and the project’s head, said. “It isn’t anything we should feel the need to be ashamed of, or anything we feel like we have to hide.”

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