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Art as therapy

Danielle Horvath - January 25th, 2007
Show in Benzie County focuses on mental health

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place; from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” ~Vincent Van Gogh

Self-expression has long been used to “unlock” emotions, resolve conflict, reduce stress, increase self-awareness and gain personal insight. In Benzie County, self-expression and the healing power of art are themes of a new show focusing on mental health.
Art as therapy is used to help children deal with grief; it is used in hospitals to aid patients in the healing process; in prisons to help inmates see another side of themselves; as a treatment in halfway houses and homeless shelters.
Mental health facilities and residential treatment centers use art along with the more traditional “talk therapies” to encourage people to deal with difficult mental, social and emotional issues related to trauma and loss, substance abuse, domestic violence, family and relationship issues, anxiety and depression, and other psychological disorders.
Art therapy is sometimes raw, painful, and unsettling. It can be a way to both expose and deal with topics that may be violent or sexually charged.

AN EQUALIZER
“Not everyone works out his or her mental health issues through medication and behavior therapy,” says Will Swanson, director of the Benzie County Drop-In Center. “When someone is dealing with pain and anguish, creative expression can show emotions and issues through a different view of the mind, and often connects people on a totally different level. Art can also be an equalizer; it lets people be viewed for what they have to offer the world, for what they are capable of, not by their ailments.”
Swanson has taken that view a step further by organizing the Benzie Drop In Center’s first juried art competition from January 26 – February 15 with works that depict mental health and the ways artists respond to it.
The purpose of the show is to demonstrate to the community that those who are too often deemed “disabled” - and therefore limited - can still creatively communicate the same emotions, fears and desires that we all share as human beings. Artists who have either personal experience, or have been close to someone with mental illness, are especially encouraged to enter their work.
Prize money will be over $750, with $300 going to the first place winner, $200 for second place, $100 for third place and several honorable mentions at $50 each. Artists may enter up to three works for a $12 entry fee, and can offer their works for sale. All art entries are due by Jan. 23. The show is free to the public with an opening reception planned for Friday, January 26.
The Benzie Drop In Center is an organization founded and run by those who understand what it’s like to suffer from mental illness, providing a support system that helps people through difficult times. “It’s a place to make friends, get out of the house, participate in activities, or just relax,” Swanson explained. “People are encouraged to play pool, air hockey, watch a movie, use one of our five computers, or share a hobby or interest of their own. We are open to endless possibilities!”

The Center at 76 Airport Road in Frankfort is open Monday-Thursday from 8:30am - 3:00pm (8pm on Tuesdays) and everyone is free to just drop-in. No appointment is necessary. Call 231.352.5052 for more information or check out the Center and details on the art show at www.benziedropin.org.
 
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