Select pieces from the
NEDHSA Mental Health Collection
on view at Ruston Artisans, LLC:
Northeast Delta Human Services Authority (NEDHSA) directs the operation of community-based programs to improve the quality of life of people with major mental illness, developmental disabilities, and addictive disorders.
NEDHSA’s Art Is Medicine Initiative is derived from our belief that there is medicine in creative expression. The arts can help a person come alive in ways traditional treatment options can’t. Through this initiative NEDHSA commissioned seven (7) regional creatives to create artwork from their perspective focusing on mental and behavioral.
NEDHSA Executive Director Montez A. Sizer intentionally sparked this creative expression to help address mental health issues, reduce addiction-related stigma, and work to transform the region's economy.
These pieces introduce, inspire, and raise awareness of the various elements of mental/behavioral health, developmental disabilities, and addictive disorders.
The NEDHSA Mental Health Collection was created with the guidance and partnership of the NELA Arts Council and the Downtown Arts Alliance.
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Restored by Shiketra May White (pictured)
“Restored is a mixed media piece designed to reflect the healing journey from the effects of rape, military sexual trauma (MST) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). From brokenness to wholeness in life.” – Shiketra
What It Look Like 2.0 by Drék Davis (pictured)
“My interest in participating in this project is rooted, in part, in my role as department head for Visual & Performing Arts at Grambling State University. This project is in line with my desire to continue to make works that consider the psychological and emotional toll of being an American of African descent in the 21st Century.
Since 2020, I’ve been reminded of the compartmentalization of the Black experience, and the dangers of repressing the psychological impact of living a challenged existence during difficult times. Specifically, it was the experiences of students during the Covid-19 shutdown that drove the point home for me. It was already evident that many students were experiencing financial and emotional difficulties that were exacerbated by the sudden disconnect of covid-19, and forced to return home.
The works in this exhibition are my commitment to demonstrating the importance of self-reflection, and the expression and mediation of psychological/emotional struggles. These beliefs and intentions are derived from first-hand experience and are now integral to my artistic practice. I believe that the works that I might create will serve as an object lesson for those questioning whether to discuss their concerns about their mental or behavioral health.
The pieces, part of a series begun in 2021, are titled “What It Look Like?” The individual works are titled after Hip Hop songs that address mental wellness. The imagery is modeled after the Rorschach Test and is created from interpretations of data collected in the 2021 Annual Report issued by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, and the 2022 study conducted by College Pulse, at Penn State. Both studies attempt to drill down on undergraduate needs, at a variety of institutions. The most persistent concerns are interpreted here as colors associated with emotional/psychological dispositions, and percentages. Each work is a reflection of the ebbs and flows that we all experience. And while each piece is open to interpretation, it is my hope that contemplation of the images sparks some questions in the view.” – Drék Davis
Ease My Mind
So Many Tears
Artist: Rachel Madden
"My collection stemmed from a question, “What does my mental health look like?” Each piece was created from forcing myself to become completely immersed in every part of my mind. Which, let’s be honest, isn’t the most comfortable place to be.
While I am not a trained artist, and frankly I have a hard time calling myself that, I am a lover of all things creative. Whether that be painting, building with wood, making jewelry, or crocheting I love to do it all. But a few months ago, when I found out I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, taking to the canvas offered me a peace I had yet to attain from anything else.
I used these canvases to turn my feelings into art and show people how I feel because truthfully, talking will never make you feel as deeply as looking at a piece of art. Perhaps that is because we can interpret art to be anything we need it to be.
Rachel Madden with Inside
I work mainly with acrylic paint. I usually have a general idea of what I want to paint, and I just start. I let the painting tell me what it does or doesn’t need and sometimes that means just painting over and starting again. Those seem to be the best ones in my opinion. I paint from my heart, or my feelings and I usually just paint what I feel. I just want people to know they aren’t alone in these feelings and thoughts.
I love being given the opportunity to not only share my art but also spread positivity around mental health instead of the usual negativity and taboo surrounding it." - Rachel Madden
Artist: Keagan Vaughan
With this work of art I wanted to show how my upbringing and environment impacts my mental health. Being told that mental illness was a weakness of faith and character, I struggled in silence for years. I still struggle in a society that doesn’t always want to accept a queer trans artist. There is a need for a conversation about how religion and conservatism interact with mental health, the power that religious organizations gain over a person’s mental health, and the damage that can be caused when you are not careful.
My hope is that someone out there who is in the place I was in five or even ten years ago can see my art and have a connection to it. Maybe by relating to all my trauma it can help them make sense of their own. Maybe it really will change someone’s perceptions. I can’t control how people receive me and my art. So, let’s have a conversation about it.
Check out my art and get to know me, but don’t forget to say hi- I’d like to get to know you too." - Keagan Vaughan
"I am exhausted from being a martyr “dying” for a cause. Why should it be up to us, the queer, the blacksheep, the impoverished, the people of color, the mentally ill, and so many other marginalized groups to change peoples’ opinions? We are who we are and shame on them for not embracing our divergence from their idea of a cookie-cutter mold.
Intrusively Inflicted Infestation
Verses of Saints and Sinners
JaCera Francois with Joy Is Coming
"While I was preparing this piece I thought of these words: “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” This passage is Psalm 30:5 King James Version. Initially being given this project I knew that I wanted the viewers of my work to have a sense of relief and possible hope whether they are battling the war of mental health or not, as I mentioned in the artists panel about this event. The work that I create unintentionally began to convert into its own language of emotional connection and individuality between each piece. Fast forward to this painting, I wanted to continue that expression by having the subject of my piece bring her own sentiment.
Starting this piece, I asked people that are close to me what they thought when they heard “mental health.” Some said that they thought of people that feel insecure, depressed, alone, heavy. One even gave a more descriptive visual saying “imaging you are sitting on a beach looking into the distance, but everything around you is out of sorts. Imagine looking in the distance at the horizon and the world appears upside down.” This being representative of the weight that someone may feel they are carrying. From someone that has personally been through those feelings it is relatable to feel the weight of the world and have a sense that there isn’t a chance of relief and that you may even be carrying the weight alone. From those perspectives I was able to narrow down the imagery that needed to be portrayed.
The subject of this piece is representational of someone that has gone through those feelings that are mentioned above. A liturgical dancer was the best choice because of the dramatic moment. I wanted the viewer to grasp the idea that the subject is determinately releasing the weight of the world which may be the resulting feeling of the battle of mental health. The vibrant colors symbolizing breaking free of the heavy bondage and the expression on her face shows the relief of winning the overall war that has tried to break her down. She has come to the realization that her inner light shines for her joy to come. She has realized her joy is here." - JaCera Francois
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. - Psalms 30:5
Inique Harris with Lose of Self
"During long periods of depression I lost my sense of self after a while. Long time hobbies no longer cause a spark of enjoyment; praises from loved ones trigger little to no emotions; comfort foods are drained of their flavor. As time goes on, one day I looked into the mirror and find
an unrecognizable shell of my former." - Inique Harris