When the I Am More project came to be a year ago, I was determined to complete 16 portraits of subjects with some type of mental suffering, encourage 16 essays to accompany them about how they are more than their suffering, and share them with my community. When I completed Patrick and York last month, rather than feeling accomplishment and finality, I felt emptiness and restlessness. For a year I had always had one more portrait to do and that had sustained me.
The question arose last fall, as the finish line seemed to be in sight, what next? It was then that I began thinking about taking the project beyond my community and the people I knew, to a wider sampling of Massachusetts residents. First I needed to see how the portraits I had completed would be received by Cape Ann.
I started sending out emails to local organizations, businesses, and shops and waited to see if there would be any takers of I Am More displays. Every step of this project has surprised me. I expected polite refusals but instead received enthusiastic responses – to a mental health awareness project! Groups and businesses were eager to share the stories of my subjects and invited me to speak to their staff members and boards about the project. To date these are the newest I Am More partners and there are more in the works:
Every day I hear from new locations eager to participate and a grand total of one who literally does not have a bare wall and was extremely apologetic. It excites me to no end that there will be art and writing in spaces and on walls that have never held any and that these hosts will help to tackle these important mental health issues and bring them into the light. We are a changing society.
Knowing that these subjects will be in so many wonderful locations gave me the reassurance that it was time to grow and spread out beyond Cape Ann. As I plan the opening exhibit for June 15, 16 and 17 at The Paint Factory here in Gloucester, I will also be looking for the next portrait subjects from communities all over Massachusetts. I’m looking for as much diversity as possible and look forward to covering new issues from subjects from every life stage and learning as much as I can from them.
If you would like to become involved in I Am More: Massachusetts, if you have ideas for funding, partnerships, subjects or programs, you can contact me at email@example.com. “I am more” was an idea that helped give me a new direction, and I encourage you to make use of it whether you are a teacher, health care provider, artist, writer, or student. It’s my offering to you, so use it in any way that’s helpful to you and let me know if I can be of help. Thanks for being on the journey with me.