photo:  CMHA Vernon Rehabilitation and Wellness program manager Lenai Schmidt at the Awakening the Spirit Art Show

The power of art as a therapeutic activity benefiting the mental health of individuals and communities is being showcased at Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Vernon & District’s 16th Annual Awakening the Spirit Art Show and Sale at the Vernon Community Arts Centre.

The show launched June 27, celebrating the creative talents of community members living with mental illness and mental health challenges, who use art to improve their mental health.

“Through art and creativity we hope to break down some of the barriers and stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness. We encourage everyone to come down and view the amazing work of our local artists,” said Lenai Schmidt, Manager of Rehabilitation and Wellness Programs for CMHA Vernon & District.

Each year one of the art submissions is selected to be represented in the official event poster. Local artist Willow Sage won this year’s distinction with her submission, ‘Tamma – The Spirit Elephant of Prosperity & Healing’.

The piece took about a month to create, and was almost ruined when it got rained on,” said Willow. “All the colours blurred together.”

Willow persevered and restored her artwork. “I re-inked the lines, and added a scent and some glitter. I was also making jam at the time and used some of my ingredients as colour.”

Willow managed to submit the piece half an hour before the deadline.

“When I found out I won, I cried. I had felt overwhelmed trying to fix the piece, but believed that throughout, I would be acknowledged somehow,” she said.

The piece features outlines in India ink and is coloured with unique pigments from elderberry juice, cranberry jam and mint, with parts representing aspects of Willow’s life, from personal struggle, healing, and people who influenced her life.

Willow’s artistic journey began as a child, but through the years other priorities took precedence. “I fell into the societal belief that art wasn’t worth pursuing and went out of my way to avoid becoming a ‘starving artist.’”

After raising a family, Willow returned to her childhood love of art. She took classes and started to draw and experiment with different mediums.

As a survivor of childhood abuse, Willow has overcome her past trauma with remedies for the mind, body, and spirit, addressing all parts of human suffering.
Through art, she discovered the healing power of immersing yourself into the moment, having a purpose, and sharing your gifts with those around you.

“Ninety-nine per cent of healing happens in your tribe, where someone is always a bit stronger to help you and someone is always a bit weaker so you can help them,” she said.

“I have met wonderful people here at CMHA. It is an amazing place of love and acceptance. Instead of judging mental illness they celebrate uniqueness.”

Willow hopes her art would be healing for the person who buys it. “When they struggle, I want them to touch it and connect to it. I celebrate and bless every piece with my love so that experience will go to other person.”

The Vernon Community Arts Centre located at 2704A Hwy 6, has generously donated its gallery for the show. The Art Sale and Show runs until July 23rd. Monday – Thursday: 9am – 9pm, Friday: 9am – 5pm and Saturday: 9am – 4:30pm.

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