The National Alliance on Mental Illness will host their annual healing art show opening reception at Lakeside St. Coffeehouse Saturday. The event takes place in honor of Mental Illness Awareness week, which takes place during the first full week of October.

NAMI Wisconsin serves the community as one of the largest grassroots mental health organizations in the area, and seeks to both advocate for individuals with mental illnesses and educate about mental health and recovery. The organization supports 31 local affiliates across the state working against the stigma of mental illness.

This year’s Healing Art Show has been organized by Jamie Gurgul, NAMI Wisconsin’s communications and events director.

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“The show was originally created to break down stigma that is often associated with mental illness in the community,” Gurgul said. “We wanted to showcase our artists’ strengths and abilities rather than limiting their talents by their mental health conditions.”

Forty artists are featured in the show, more artists than ever before in the event’s history. NAMI Wisconsin created the show 11 years ago as a platform to create space for artists with mental illnesses, and has since expanded due to necessity.

The artists come from all around the state of Wisconsin, rather than being limited to just the Madison area. This allows the audience to experience a wider range of viewpoints on the subject of mental illness from all over the state.

Art can be used to explain mental health in a way that other mediums cannot. The individuality of each artist’s mental health condition is portrayed through their various artistic styles and works, according to Gurgul.

“For all of our artists, art is really just a wonderful way to understand emotions, perceptions and behaviors,” Gurgul said.

The exhibition will display multifaceted aspects of art such as painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, music and more — showing the range of talents of the artists involved.

The Healing Art Show will be the first time a lot of these artists are able to display their work publicly, Gurgul said. Through this, NAMI Wisconsin provides an avenue for emerging or practicing artists to display their works.

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There are many benefits to participating in art, especially for those with mental health conditions, Gorgul said. Some of these benefits include stress relief, self-empowerment and motivation — though the list goes on and on.

“It’s a great time to provide self care for oneself and be able to communicate the thoughts going through their mind,” Gorgul said. 

This exhibition serves as a prime educational tool that everyone can learn something from. The exhibit reveals just how important the issue of mental health is, and seeks to challenge the ways we address and confront it.

Gurgul believes art is a great place to start. Through holding an event that both gives individuals with mental illnesses a voice while also educating the public at large about the manifestations and realities of mental illness, the Healing Art Show serves as an integral community event.

The opening reception will take place from 5 to 9 p.m. Sep. 30, and will give attendees a chance to meet some of the artists involved. For those who cannot make the reception, there’s no need to worry, the exhibition will be open from Sep. 29 to Nov. 10. at the Lakeside St. Coffee House.

“Everyone deserves access to a quality life of happiness and opportunity to work and find their purpose,” Gurgul said.