Heart to art 

Tonight, the nonprofit NorthCare sponsores Art Awakening, a one-time showcase of artwork created by those living with mental illnesses. The event features live music, food trucks and the chance to purchase the art displayed.

Jennifer Arlan, NorthCare director of marketing and communications, said the idea for the event has been in the works for several years. She and fellow staffers saw an opportunity to get this idea off the ground through collaboration with Leadership Oklahoma City and its Linking OKC’s Young Adult Leaders (LOYAL) program.

She hopes Art Awakening will help dispel some of the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“We want to highlight our clients,” Arlan said. “We want to emphasize that just because a person is living with mental illness, that doesn’t mean they’re not a whole person.”

She said the goal is for people to observe healthy ways of coping with challenges. NorthCare staff member Jen McCreight believes attendees will gain a better understanding.

“These folks are artists, first and foremost,” McCreight said.

NorthCare clients aren’t the only ones who will have pieces on exhibit at Art Awakening. Arlan said the entire staff has been pitching in to fold 1,000 paper cranes, a feat that is supposed to grant good luck and good health. The message behind the cranes is one of hope for those living with mental illness.

“There will be some overwhelming hope on display,” Arlan said.

McCreight said it was particularly rewarding to see how the NorthCare art sessions strengthened relationships among clients.

“We originally thought people would pick and choose when they want to come,” she said. “It turned out that we’d get lots of the same folks coming back every week, not caring what kind of art project they were working on: drawing, painting, photography — it didn’t matter.

“Having that time and space together is so important, and knowing that they’re not alone. They just wanted to come together to make art. It’s been so powerful.”

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Alyssa Grimley

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