In January of 2017, on my couch, in the depths of depression, I had a thought. I am more than this. I knew that I needed this reminder and I wondered if others did too. I thought, if I could draw faces of people who knew pain, and ask them to share how they were more than their struggles, maybe it would help (you and me).
I approached Anita Pandolfe Ruchman of A Tender Place first, and presented the idea to her. She loved it. She taught me about the language of mental health and loss and sensitivity and encouraged me to give it a go, agreeing to be a portrait subject. Thanks Anita, you are a comfort and an inspiration.
Karen Ristuben is a genius of the Cape Ann art world–she was the next person I approached. As president of the Rocky Neck Art Colony and too many other leadership roles to count, she is a busy lady, but she sat with me and explained art funding and the ways I could, as a newcomer, find a way to make my project happen. Thank you, Karen, where would Cape Ann be without you?
The funding for the past year came from a smart, funny, compassionate and generous soul who has been my fairy godmother, cheerleader, counselor, and without whom I might still be on the couch wondering what was possible. Thank you to my anonymous sponsor for all that you do and for helping me to believe in myself.
Jim Casey was the first brave soul to take a walk with me and Iain’s fancy camera that I didn’t know how to use. He was patient and open and willing. Thanks Jim, for being first.
After Anita and Jim came Donna, Seth, Ramani, Susie, Brenda, Sefatia, Patrick, Emilia, Henry, Julia, Chris, Sophie, Laurie and Rebecca. Each one taught me something new and astounding about life, survival and compassion. Thank you all for traveling this road with me.
To the kind and enthusiastic folks at Addison Gilbert Hospital, Gloucester City Hall, Action Inc., Lahey Health Behavioral Services, The Open Door, Cape Ann Animal Aid, Backyard Growers, Gloucester Stage, Cape Ann Coffees, North Shore Music Theatre, Cape Ann Savings Bank, North Shore YMCA, Emerson College, Cape Ann Power Yoga, Willow Rest, Magnolia Library and Community Center, Maritime Gloucester, Saltwater Massage Studio, Treetop Yoga, Cape Ann Cinema and Stage, Gloucester High School, Sound Harbor Music School, Common Crow Natural Market, and Therapy for Intentional Living, you opened your hearts and your spaces to the idea that none of us are alone in our struggles and we all have gifts to celebrate. Thank you for being so welcoming and accommodating.
To Maureen Aylward and Amanda Cook of the Gloucester Writer’s Center – thank you for sharing your thoughts and time to find new ways to reach people with the message of I Am More…Fish Tales here we come!
To Malva Crothers, Linda Lewis, and everyone at NAMI Cape Ann, thank you for opening your doors to us and sharing your knowledge about mental health awareness, education and advocacy.
I am such a fan of Gloucester High School art teacher Lorrinda Cerrutti. Hanging out in her classroom with her students has been the best gift and I’m forever grateful to her for sharing I Am More with her kids and cheering it along every step of the way.
Thank you to the staff of Ocean Alliance (I’m looking at you, Brita) for the countless hours of dirty backbreaking work getting the Paint Factory ready for this exhibit.
Thank you to Christopher Anderson for putting on your editor’s cap and helping me make the essays easy to read and digest at the exhibit.
To Caleb Rulli and Hershey Frame Shop – thank you for being so ridiculously good at what you do. I will live in terror for the foreseeable future, trying to protect your work.
Thank you to Seaside Graphics for turning the essays into a professional, easy-to read display that will be durable and flexible for the many unique display locations.
Joann Mackenzie of Cape Ann Magazine and the Gloucester Daily Times shook me to my core when she requested an interview about the project. She put my fears to rest by being gentle and patient with this recluse. Same goes for photographer Mike Springer who could not have been nicer. Keep a look out for the Summer issue of Cape Ann Magazine!
Thanks to photographer Jason Grow for coming to the rescue with display panels so that the project will be seen in Gloucester City Hall.
To all of my friends who are contributing food, flowers, artwork, music, tables and chairs, who helped to share, invite, introduce and support, I am forever grateful for your help.
My parents have been behind me every step of the way, in dark times and triumphant times, with encouragement and time and love. Thanks to Rose and Ken for believing in my vision.
Rebecca Siswick Graham has been my partner in crime from the beginning. On top of her busy schedule as a working artist and staff member at Cape Ann Arts Association she has shared her face, her story, her time, her ideas and she has single-handedly curated the artists contributing to the I Am More opening exhibit. She calms me and always always makes me laugh and remember to chill out, but freaking out is ok too. Thank you, Rebecca, for always having my back and for contributing your talents to this cause. I can’t wait for you to see her art at the exhibit.
And finally, there are two people who have been immersed in this project from day one. Iain and Dylan are the people you want living with you when you’re trying to create a mental health awareness project. There is no task they won’t help you with, no bad day they won’t see you through. They will feed you, listen to you, cry with you, laugh with you and make you believe in yourself. I am a lucky lucky mum and wife.
To see what we as a community created, come to Ocean Alliance at the Paint Factory (32 Horton St, Gloucester) Friday June 15th from 7-10 pm, Saturday and Sunday June 16 & 17 from 9-5 pm. Thank you for coming to support us next week and throughout the coming year.