By Riley Hanna
Talking about mental health can be extremely difficult for many, especially due to rampant negative societal stigma. On Nov. 3, Lewis & Clark hosted the first ever “Art-A-Thon,” which was hosted by Art With Impact, a non-profit organization which aims to use artistic mediums and creativity to reduce this stigma surrounding mental health and wellness. The event was the brainchild of Maya Goldman, the program director of Art With Impact, who provided a statement over email on the goals of the event.
“The Art-A-Thon was created to be a community event, bringing people together and inspiring them to create art about the things that matter to them,” Goldman said. “We wanted to show the young adults of Portland that what they think, feel and experience MATTERS (sic), that they can take action and use their voices to heal and grow together. We also aimed to help our participants and audience members talk about mental health beyond the event itself—with their families, friends and communities.”
Art-A-Thon participants ranged in age from 16 to 25. Goldman feels that it is essential to reach out to people in this demographic, as three out of four people with mental illnesses experience symptoms before the age of 25. Participants were put into teams assisted by mentors and mental health specialists as a support system.
Teams created their original works between 10:30 a.m and 5:00 p.m. To ensure that artists didn’t come prepared with any creations, there were two guidelines that each piece had to follow: both the color green and the word, image, or concept of pancakes had to be represented.
At the 6:00 a.m. showcase, participants and mentors displayed their creations to an audience. The art was extremely well-executed and provocative, especially considering the short time frame was amazing. Some artists chose to create visual art pieces such as paintings and collages, while others performed spoken word and music. Many artists chose to create a multimedia display. Additionally, short films previously submitted to Art With Impact were shown, and the audience was invited to discuss them.
As the event also served as a fundraiser, both participants and attendees donated a minimum of ten dollars each.
“100% of the proceeds from the Art-A-Thon go to the programs we run on college campuses,” Goldman said. “Every dollar raised helps more students experience our work and engage with the mental health resources available to them.”
Unfortunately, I was the only LC undergraduate student who participated in the event and attended the showcase. The only other LC student at the event was Kati Hengel, a student at the Lewis & Clark Graduate Campus and prospective art therapist. She worked as a volunteer at the event.
“The experience has been amazing watching people come together and create art in various forms, whether it’s a performance, or a painting, or music,” Hengel said. “I think that art can be a really helpful way to express things that you’re feeling but maybe you can’t put the words to.”
Watching the community come together and create for an important cause was an extremely powerful and healing experience. The “Art-A-Thon” is planning to return to LC next year.