Alumni showcased in local art exhibit

Jeri Moore

Teresa Lopez, 2013 graduate, Logan Canafax, 2017 graduate, Jessica Cartwright, executive director of National Alliance of Mental Illness, Kenneth Shanks and Jamie Gardner, 2017 graduates, at the Gray Matters exhibit on Oct. 7. Photo by Jeri Moore

On Oct. 7, an art exhibition titled Gray Matters transformed 9th Street Studio. Organized by National Alliance of Mental Illness members, their intention was to bring awareness of mental health issues to the local community and in memory of local resident Scott Brazil.

“Everybody is touched by mental illness in one way or another, so it’s really cool to see this community come together for this topic,” Jessica Cartwright, executive director of NAMI, said.

Walking into the 9th Street Studio, attendees arrived at the top of the corridor to be with vivid images of butterflies, flowers and dystopic music constructed with an intentional dissonant flow set the contrasting mood of the event.

Seventeen artists and more than 60 people showed up to show their support for the arts and cause. Alcoholic beverages and appetizers were available to exhibition attendees to stimulate their palates as the art world impressed upon their minds. Many of the displayed pieces left a part of the artist exposed to their audience.

Jessica Cartwright and a few of NAMI’s board members came up with the idea of this exhibit to bring attention to the artwork of artists who suffer from mental illness and to help end the stigma. She hopes to make this event an annual event in the future and has already started fiscally planning to hold the event next year.

“The thing about being exposed is if you don’t appear to be as bad as people think you should be, it means nothing really,” Jamie Gardner, an artist and 2017 graduate, said. “This [piece] is probably the first image where I didn’t try to run away and hide behind positive imagery,” she said of her second work.

Teresa Lopez, art and theater teacher at Notre Dame Catholic School and 2013 graduate, is the creator of an interactive piece named, “The Lost.” Where an attendee is invited to “help Teresa put her mind back together.”

“That is the first time I publicly expressed what was going on within my head,” Lopez said. “I didn’t realize how big of a group of artists actually had different mental disorders. I’m quickly discovering that people I went to school with even, people I know personally were going through similar things.”

Logan Canafax, 2017 graduate and artist, received a referral to the exhibition by a friend who had attended her senior class exhibition.  She then got in contact with Cartwright and even helped hang the pieces for the event.

“I got to be in touch with the pieces one-on-one, then look at the booklet and know the story behind them,” Canafax said. “It’s cool for me to be able to connect with people who are like ‘we’re about this too.  We want to help other people too.'”

She has found that meditation and yoga are helping her to “heal through nature” a theme and idea echoed through many of the pieces in this exhibit.

Kenneth Shanks, 2017 graduate in art, said “It’s definitely a conversation starter.  One of my teachers was helping me with my EURECA project and she didn’t fully understand depression before that.”

Any money left over or raised will go to serve NAMI’s mission and financially fund future Gray Matters events.