Things are rolling along so quickly here with I Am More I needed to get an update out before I lose track of all of the happenings.
I Am More: Massachusetts Opening Exhibit
We have an opening! The first public unveiling of the 20 I Am More: Massachusetts portraits will be Saturday, October 19th at the Worcester PopUp from 4-6 pm, you can view the Facebook Event Page here. I chose Worcester as the first of five locations for the I Am More: Massachusetts exhibits because it is central to all of the portrait subjects and it is a vibrant cultural community who have taken a great interest in the project. The Department of Public Health introduced me to Hank von Hellion and his team at Worcester PopUp, and I had a tour of this new and innovative art and community space. It was a perfect fit and they have been extremely welcoming to the project.
Mental Health First Aid Handbook
I received a surprising email from the National Council on Behavioral Health recently– after publishing a piece about I Am More in their blog last December, they decided they liked it so much that they wanted to know if they could include the portrait Jessica and Mila with a write-up of I Am More in their new Mental Health First Aid Handbook. Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches people how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders and is taught by instructors across the country. So I said yes, and today they asked if they could use the same portrait in signage at their upcoming Mental Health First Aid Instructors Summit.
A Beautiful New Friendship
Last month I Am More was invited to be part of an event organized by NAMI Greater North Shore at the Danvers Art Association which included the original 16 portraits, and speakers from the NAN Project who train peer mentors in Massachusetts high schools. My family and I were blown away by the young speakers and the founders of the NAN Project, Jake Cavanaugh and Ellen Dalton.
Since the event, Jake and I have been communicating about how to join forces in bringing messages of hope into area high schools, so with the Gloucester High School display happening, I introduced him to art teacher Lorrinda Cerrutti, who organized a meeting with the NAN Project at Gloucester High.
This is my favorite good news of all–they drew up a timeline to create “ambassadors” for mental health. They are planning on creating a group of students who will raise mental health awareness at Gloucester High through art and poetry. Later in March Jake will bring 3 to 4 of his speakers to present to this targeted group of student ambassadors.
Part 2 of my favorite good news of all came today–Jake and his team recently visited Phoenix Academy in Lawrence, and they will be introducing a project inspired by I Am More involving self portraits of the students accompanied by short stories of something they have overcome in their lives. I am hoping we can incorporate these into the Lawrence regional opening of I Am More: Massachusetts.
Gloucester High School Display
Art teacher Lorrinda Cerrutti has been a powerhouse I Am More collaborator. Last spring she introduced the project to teachers and students, and as a result I was able to publish and display artwork and writing by Kyla and Gianna at the opening exhibit. This month Lorrinda has organized a display of the original portraits at the high school in the main hallway display cases and the art wing. The display will be capped off by a visit from the NAN Project speakers. English teacher Cynthia Mochowski has been instrumental in introducing me to organizations around Massachusetts and helped to secure one of the I Am More: Massachusetts portrait subject.
“The portraits are amazing as stand alone art, but with the backstories of each of the subjects they become a powerful use of the arts to highlight the issues many of us face each day or if not stand as a reminder of the challenges so many people must deal with on a daily basis. it is truly humbling.” – David Enos, Gloucester High School science teacher
We have reached the point where locations are approaching me, instead of me approaching them, which is helpful. Future exhibits of I Am More are in the works for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown (treatment location for many of the Boston Marathon Bombing victims), Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, the Briarwood Retirement Community in Worcester, and the Danvers UU Church.
New Portrait Subjects
The next two portrait subjects for I Am More: Massachusetts are from Cape Ann, followed by an 87-year old Holocaust survivor, and a writer from Newburyport. I am continuing my search for the final two portrait subjects who I hope to be a teenager and a refugee settled in Massachusetts.
Thank you to new sponsors Lee Quigley and Katherine and Peter Coakley. I have $17,900 left to raise to meet my goal, so if you’d like to support all of these happenings you can make checks payable to Ocean Alliance with “I Am More” in the memo line, sent to Amy Kerr at 3 Ledge Road, Gloucester, MA 01930. Thank you for your support!
Thank You to My Family
My husband has been my hero in hanging all 20 displays of the past 10 months, with daughter Dylan helping with the Gloucester High display. This is in between Iain overseeing a major building renovation at Ocean Alliance on the waterfront, and leading ongoing SnotBot expeditions. The day before he left on his current trip to the Dominican Republic he was prepping the walls at Gloucester High so that we could hang with ease. Dylan just finished her final college audition which involved ridiculous amounts of singing, dancing, acting, interviews and writing. They each save me every day and I am forever grateful.