Mindful: Exploring Mental Health Through Art

by | Apr 7, 2017

Organized by the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, Pa., Mindful is no typical “craft show.” Rather, using traditional craft materials in unexpected ways, the 14 artists in Virginia MOCA’s latest exhibition explore the often subterranean and misunderstood range of mental illnesses affecting some one in four adults in hopes of connecting creativity and community to nurture healthier living. 

Using ceramics, glass, fabric, embroidery, metals, book arts, found objects and more, the artists, both male and female, create open-ended visual metaphors for contemplation. Some of the work was made as part of the artists’ ongoing processes of recovery and resilience while other pieces represent artists exploring this complex aspect of their identities publicly for the first time. Whether the artists embrace their own struggles or those of family members’ or friends’, each of the more than 30 pieces—from a seven-piece place setting of pharmaceuticals delicately rendered in grisaille underglazes on matte white porcelain to sculptural pieces meant to be worn on the human body to both restrict dancers’ bodies and cause them to adapt—seem to be as much about rising up as spiraling down.    

Removing stigma, increasing understanding, and fostering compassion are stated goals of both the originators of the show and of the Virginia MOCA. Toward those ends, the exhibition is being used as a touchstone for “civic conversation” and self-expression. Hence, the sweep of public programming crafted in response to the show’s many overlapping and intersecting themes is broad. 

Targeting a wide range of ages and interest levels and providing numerous access points into the content of the exhibition are day and evening, weekday and weekend, free and low-cost opportunities to turn both inward and outward becoming more introspective and self-reflective or reaching out to other individuals, groups and resources. Visitors are invited to clarify their understanding, explore new dimensions (or familiar ones in new ways), affirm their experiences and, if desired, connect with organizations offering assistance. 

Though each program is unique, participants can generally expect to feed their bodies, minds, hearts and souls with snacks and beverages, guided gallery explorations, hands-on art experiences, conversation and more.

Virginia MOCA is located at 2200 Parks Ave., Virginia Beach. Visit VirginiaMOCA.org for a complete listing of opportunities to engage in dialogue about topics that might prove to be less hospitable terrain within a different context.

Betsy DiJulio is a full-time art teacher, artist and curator with side hustles as a freelance writer, including for Coastal Virginia Magazine, and a vegan recipe developer and food stylist and photographer for Tofutti Brands.

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