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Art show supports mental health

Michele George of Butler looks through her origami crane art at the Butler Art Center.

“A Beautiful Mind” is an art show that hopes to fight the stigma attached to people seeking help with their mental health.

Debuting Thursday at the Butler Art Center, 344 S. Main St., the show features 55 to 60 pieces of art, said Amy Cirelli, a mental health specialist with Butler County Human Services.

She said, “These pieces are made by members of the Butler community who are receiving mental health services.”

Cirelli said the creators used a variety of media: painting, drawing, jewelry, poetry and origami.

The show's sponsor is the Community Support Program, a consortium of groups and individuals interested in mental health and advocates for services for individuals and families.“It's people who've come together because of lived experience or that of family members or government service entities,” said Jim Smith of the Center for Community Resources.Mark Lane, of the Lighthouse Foundation and co-chairman of the Community Support Program, said, “We had plans to do this last year, but then COVID happened.“We've done five pop-up events that were well attended where we passed out information on what we do,” Lane said.With this art show, said Smith, “We are trying to raise awareness and trying to erase the stigma that tends to accompany those people identified with a mental illness.”“And part of it is the incredible creativity that people have. Art is a coping mechanism,” Smith said. “These people are not defined by their mental illness; they are artists.”

One of those artists was Michele George of Butler, who has 15 pieces on display at the show.George's work is split between her origami cranes and her dot art. Those media, she said, help her cope with her anxiety.“Dot art is where I use tools with a little ball at the end. I pick up paint with it and make a dot,” said George.“Little dots of paint take hours and hours to make a picture,” she said. “It helps with my anxiety because I have to control my breathing when I do it. It gets me in a relaxed zone.”

When George gets anxious, her breathing gets stuck up high in her chest, and she has to take long deep “belly breaths” when creating dot art because it helps steady her hands.She said she has been getting treatment for her anxiety for the past four years, but “I've been doing art for a while.”George said she began making origami swans during a craft class at Glade Run Lutheran Services' psychiatric rehabilitation program, EPIC (Empowering People in Communities).“I found I really enjoy this,” George said. “I string them together with embroidery floss. It's enjoyable to introduce whimsy into a room.”She's made two mobiles, each with 49 origami swans.“I do it mainly for fun,” she said of origami. “When I'm fidgety, it keeps my hands busy, and I feel productive.”Cirelli said anyone interested in the work of the Community Support Program can attend the next Zoom meeting of the organization, set for 11 a.m. the fourth Wednesday of every month.For more information, call Butler County Human Services at 724-284-5114.“A Beautiful Mind” art show runs through Saturday. The Butler Art Center's regular hours are noon to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Charles Wienand, of Butler, shows off his art work at the Butler Art Center Wednesday afternoon.
Joyce Wise, of Butler, displayed her artwork at the Butler Art Center Wednesday afternoon.
Michele George uses art as a medium to help her control her anxiety.