Greenville Museum of Art brings awareness to mental health in new exhibit


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – 2020 is a year of many different challenges — the pandemic, lockdowns, economic turmoil and political and social disorder.

Mental health is affected by all of that and more.

The Greenville Museum of Art is bringing more awareness to that issue through a new exhibit. It’s called “The Healing Through Art, Mental Health Awareness Exhibit,” and opens Friday.

“The mental health awareness show has everything to do with mental health, healing, expression, recovery. It gives a platform for artists of all ages,” said Darlene Williams, who helped make the exhibit happen.

In the Greenville presentation, you’ll find the creations of James Nelson. There’s one part of Nelson’s life that reflected his struggle — his art. His creations are now on display among other works all from people who’ve had their own struggles.

“My son James was on the autism spectrum and he led a very troubled life,” said James’ father, Dave Nelson.

Jennifer Hodgson, works in the East Carolina University Department of Human Development & Family Science. She stressed the importance of allowing the artists to show what they are feeling through their works.

“Each of these pieces is going to have a little description of what the artist was thinking and feeling when they created it,” Hodgson said. “Not everybody communicates the same way but in the end, we all have representations on how we feel.”

Hodgson knows how important it is for these artists to share their feelings through their work. One of the artists is her daughter, Lauren, who communicates through art, turning what she’s feeling inside into something others can see.

“Art is my element, it’s my happy place, so seeing all these people who love what I love come together and do stuff like this it just really makes me really happy,” Hodgson said. 

This exhibit at the Greenville Museum of Art is giving people viewing the work a way to send their own messages to these artists. Visitors can offer their own feelings and encouragement to the artists, leaving them notes to express their view of the works.

The exhibit is also meant to educate and break down pre-conceptions surrounding mental health. 

“Everyone has mental health just like everyone has physical health”, says Alston Cobourn an ECU archivist.

That’s even something difficult for people dealing with their own mental health struggles.

“My son never embraced the diagnosis or willingly accepted that he was having difficulties, and so the stigma is so strong in society that people adopt it as their own stigma,” Nelson said.

His son found an outlet through his art, but Nelson said James found the struggle to be too much.

“He was in a lot of pain and through his own hand he ended that pain,” Nelson said.

Nelson hopes parents will see this exhibit and encourage their children to explore and share their emotions.

The exhibit will run Dec. 4 from 5-8 p.m. as part of Uptown Greenville First Friday ArtWalk. Visitors must follow COVID-19 protocols.

You can find more information at the Greenville Museum of Art’s Facebook page.

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