Artability: Making Art and Progress

From October 3rd through the 5th, the walls and hallways of the APOLLO Resource Center will shine with watercolors, photographs, […]

From October 3rd through the 5th, the walls and hallways of the APOLLO Resource Center will shine with watercolors, photographs, sculpture, collage, and mosaics.  The artwork will be part of People Incorporated’s 8th annual Artability exhibit.

This year, more than fifty artists will show their work.  Whatever their medium acrylic, oil, watercolor, rock, clay, wood, leather, tapestry, or tile the artists share one commonality:  each lives with mental illness.  The show is designed to give people with mental illness a chance to show their work, as well as make art together.

For staffer Jim Leahy, it’s the creative process that matters most.  “To me, what really counts is the ongoing art opportunities every Tuesday and Thursday.  Folks come in here some come in and think of themselves as artists.  Others are apprehensive.  They say, ‘I can’t do art, I can’t draw.'”  But all those who come to APOLLO’s art room get a chance to, as Leahy says, “let some facades come down.”  All efforts are applauded and the drop-in center’s art room is a “safe, cozy, and accepted” place where people “can draw and paint bravely.”

Leahy sees himself as an art guide, a person who has mental illness himself who can assist others in opening themselves to make art.  To Leahy, the art show, and even the art itself, are just part of the goal.  “It’s the conversations that happen (in the art room) that are as important as the art,” he maintains.

This summer, APOLLO offered a series of free workshops to help artists prepare for the show. They learned basics of different art from photography to watercolor as well as how to frame and mat their pieces, and how to price and present artwork.

Judy is one artist who’s looking forward to showing her work at APOLLO again.  Last year’s Artability was her first public show.  “I felt very honored.  It really helped with my self-esteem.” She got another boost when her art teacher bought one of her watercolors for $65.  This year, Judy hopes to show and sell watercolors and sculptures.  She used the money she earned from last year’s show to buy high quality art paper and paint.  “You can tell the difference” between good and cheap art supplies, she said.  Last year’s show brought in more than $4,000 for the exhibitors.  “And every penny goes to the artists,” Leahy notes proudly.

Judy has been making art for a decade.  She draws inspiration from her north woods camping trips, as well as from her depression.  “It’s a good way to express pain, or whatever,” Judy said. Her clay sculptures reveal fragile senses:  a heart with deep pockets of pain, watchful eyes, a fluid blue sculpture of a woman with two faces.  To Judy, “Art balances our afflictions.  It balances out the pain we have to deal with.”

Making art, alone at her St. Paul apartment or with others at APOLLO’s art room, gives Judy a chance to channel the emotions that have shaped her life.  “We get kind of blessed” with art, she says.

She says she’s benefitted from going to APOLLO.  “You get the synergy, when people are doing their things too.”

The artwork sparked by the art room’s synergy will be on display at APOLLO at 25 North Dale Street, St. Paul, from October 3-5.  The grand opening is Thursday, October 3rd from 5-9 p.m.  For more information, call 651-227-6321.

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