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Artists open up in “Journey through Mental Health” art exhibit

If you are struggling with mental health, you are not alone.
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 5:27 PM EDT
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ESCANABA, Mich. (WLUC) - A new art exhibit at the Bonifas Art Center is shining a light on mental health awareness. It’s called “Journey through Mental Health.”

“The first stanza is, ‘deepest darkness the warden and the thief alone upon my bed I cry as deep calls out to deep’ And that was the story of my life for so many years,” said Bonnie Bartel, an artist in “Journey through Mental Health.”

These words are written on cards in the back of Bonnie Bartel’s art piece. Bartel lives in Escanaba and says she suffered from night terrors – calling them her “big secret.”

“Some of them I understood because they were familiar as far as past trauma goes and some of my night terrors never made any sense to me but I would take them into the daytime and they defined who I was.”

Bartel was diagnosed with alcoholism and bipolar disorder 30 years ago. Her art piece “New Beginnings” shares her story. In front of the poem are lyrics to a song she wrote in 1969 to help her through her dark times.

“The lifeline that I’m holding on to and today it’s called recovery and in my my higher power is holding that lifeline,” said Bartel.

Kate Oman, gallery coordinator for the Bonifas and an artist herself, wants this show with 25 artists from the U.P. and Green Bay to help end the stigma around mental health.

“A lot of people think that you know it’s somebody that’s just sitting in a corner rocking back-and-forth and the society but here I am you know a gallery coordinator of an arts center,” said Oman.

Oman’s piece “1000 Thoughts of Kate” is little squares of things she finds in magazines - a product of her obsessive compulsive disorder.

“Been doing that compulsively now for about 6 years I can’t stop almost as part of who I am,” said Oman.

Both artists say using art as a coping mechanism has helped them get through dark times.

“The point of all of that is I really grew and I got to kind of take the power away from that once I acknowledged it to the world,” said Oman.

If you are struggling with mental health, you are not alone. The Bonifas has several resources for people who don’t know where to start.

There will be upcoming Gallery Talks, free to the community where artists will share their stories to help others through their journeys.

“Before I was living I was the coming to the darkness today I am living my life out in the light and the darkness is still there but it has no power over me anymore,” said Bartel.

The first Gallery Talk will be on October 4 from noon until two p.m. in the Bonifas Art Center. The VA will be doing its S.A.V.E. training to help you act with compassion towards veterans in crisis.

If you would like to learn more about the program, call the Bonifas Art Center at (906) 786-3833.

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