FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 21, 2020
Mary Kay Kasper, Washington County Mental Health
Ben Truman, Vermont Department of Health
802-951-5153 / 802-863-7281
‘Health Through Our Eyes’ Art Show Project Supports Wellbeing for
Vermonters with Intellectual Disabilities
Exhibition is open to the public at the Barre Local Health Office
BARRE, VT – The inspired artwork currently on display at the Barre office of the Department of Health on Perry Street provides insight into the world and experiences of a unique collection of artists – all of whom make use of the services provided by the Washington County Mental Health Service (WCMHS) Learning Collaborative, a part of the designated agency’s Community Developmental Program.
The art show project, “Health Through Our Eyes” provides the opportunity for participants to express themselves in non-traditional ways, forming connections via creative mediums. The Learning Collaborative’s Shockwave Studio program utilizes art and writing as a medium through which participants can access their creative potential as a means for exploring their identities and telling their stories.
Learning Collaborative Coordinator Mary Kay Kasper said the local art program is an empowering way for participants to learn new skills and to explore one’s creative potential through self-expression. Participants are led through an artistic process designed to fuel personal inspiration, improve communication skills and develop a stronger sense of self awareness. “Art is a unique way for people to experience wellness,” said Kasper.
Kasper also explained that for many of the participants, creating art assists in fostering the healthy decisions and life choices that lead to a more self-directed life. “For people with intellectual disabilities, the challenges of navigating everyday life can present stressors that can sometimes elicit physical or emotional responses,” said Kasper. “By providing a creative outlet to express their thoughts and feelings, this program helps these members of our community in strengthening their emotional well-being. Self-confidence is a key tool for developing healthy strategies to reducing stress.”
Kasper said, “this form of expression is especially helpful to young people who are bridging the transition from youth to adult mental health services. Expressing one’s creative energy provides positive nourishment leading to emotional and intellectual health.”
One local artist, Paul, said working in watercolors lets him turn off all the noise and distractions. “After I do a painting, it makes me feel happy and good inside. It is important to do things I can do, that make me feel okay.”
The artists’ work is showcased at the State Office Building in Barre. Local Health Office Director Joan Marie Misek said this accessibility gives members of the public a chance to enjoy the art itself, but also to gain an appreciation for the people who created it. “Promoting health equity and wellness is a core part of what we do,” said Misek. “We work closely with Washington County Mental Health Services and the Department of Mental Health in all our communities. We are happy to host this exhibition, and hope the artists and visitors are enjoying it as much as we are.”
“It makes me happy,” said Elizabeth, another of the artists. “I think art is awesome!”
For an individual living with an intellectual disability this work offers a tangible example of what is possible empowering one’s self through expression and community integration.
The exhibition will continue through the new year at the Barre Office of Local Health, located at the McFarland Office Building, 5 Perry Street in Barre. The gallery show is also in the State Capitol Building cafeteria.
To learn more about this project or other services offered by Washington County Mental Health, please visit WCMHS.org.
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About Washington County Mental Health
Washington County Mental Health Services advocates the inclusion of all persons into our communities and actively encourages Self-Determination and Recovery. We serve all individuals and families coping with the challenges of developmental disabilities and mental health by providing trauma-informed services to support them as they achieve their highest potential and best possible quality of life.