My Voice Media, the mental health program at the Arts Consortium, started getting back in person just in time for Mental Health Awareness Month in May. Participants created their first art installation called “Our World, Our Perspective,” using the collaborative talents of participants in the art, photography, and videography classes.
The installation was the Arts Consortium’s show for the First Friday Art Walk. Small groups can make appointments to come to see the show through May.
What is an art installation? Californians may remember “Christo’s Umbrellas,” an installation of over 1,000 bright yellow umbrellas strewn across the Grapevine 30 years ago. And New York City has just announced a number of new installations, including a Giant Pin Cushion installation in the Garment District.
Installations are art creations incorporated into the environment.
My Voice participants also chose umbrellas for their installation—but theirs are all hand-painted (to show everyone is different), along with raindrops (an atmosphere for umbrellas) and flowers (representing friendship). They made it into a photo booth, so viewers can sit inside to have their photos taken surrounded by the colorful scene.
“We’ve never done an installation before. We usually just teach various classes. It was a learning experience and very collaborative,” said Ampelio Mejia, executive director of the Arts Consortium.
“Our participants worked together as a committee to determine the design elements, the colors, and title, and then to create and install everything,” said Hope Kay, My Voice project coordinator.
Inspiration on video
For the video, Oliva Garza, peer support specialist, wrote a beautiful commentary using six areas of mental health recovery and wellness: Listen, Support, Friendship, Family, Acceptance and Support Group.
Garza, a poet and person with “lived experience” in mental health, wrote about getting through the hard times, putting aside worries and finding joy in the little things and talking with people to help make the bad days go by.
She ended the video by saying, “My Voice participants have been strong, and we will get through this together.”
It’s a perfect inspiration—not only for those with mental health issues, but for everyone during COVID-19.
The short video can be viewed on the Arts Consortium’s YouTube page.
No Stigma Speakers Bureau
The goal of the My Voice Media Center is to reduce the stigma of mental illness and to provide a safe space where participants can learn to express themselves through the arts as well as advocate for positive social change.
The No Stigma Speakers Bureau, one of the My Voice programs, is also back in action, giving talks to law enforcement, crisis intervention teams, doctors, nurses and first responders to help them understand what those living with mental health are going through.
“We write out our stories and practice with each other and share ideas,” said Garza. “We are happy to talk to any group that would like to learn more about us.”
One of the descriptions on the My Voice website is, “We are passionate about transforming pain into empowerment, so we utilize our lived experiences as tools to express our triumph over stigma.”
Garza, who has worked at My Voice for eight years, has seen this happen over and over, including in her own life.
“It has helped me so much. I didn’t think I could ride the bus or talk on the phone. My mind was always distracted,” she said. “I’ve grown a lot.”
One participant had agoraphobia and couldn’t leave the house. It took her two years to come to My Voice.
“She took one class, then another class,” said Garza. “She actually became an instructor here and felt safe and not judged. She would even go to lunch with people after class.”
Garza added, “People like to come here. They feel accepted. And some make beautiful art!”
Classes include pastels, acrylics, 3-D art, printmaking, guitar, photography, videography, peer support, and the No Sigma Speakers Bureau.
My Voice Media Center
Arts Consortium at the Old Lumber Yard, 300 E. Oak, Visalia. Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays
Classes are online and in-person. Because of COVID-19, 5 people or less can attend each in-person session, so call ahead, 559 802-3266 or email m[email protected]/ Learn more at www.myvoicemediacenter.com
To see the “Our World, Our Perspective” art installation and First Friday video, go to the Arts Consortium’s YouTube channel, www.tinyurl.com/Acarts2020
The art installation is open by appointment from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursdays in May