Wings Across Alabama gives artistic voice to mental health services consumers

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By Alison James
Associate Editor

Artistic flair was put on show in February, culminating in a reception at the end of the month, as part of the programs of Wings Across Alabama.
Wings Across Alabama is a consumer-run organization that is dedicated to positive change in the lives of those affected by mental illness, promoting recovery and building a network of caring, compassionate and committed people. Offering artistic outlets an encouraging artistic expression is one way to accomplish that goal.
“We’re trying to get the artisans and writers together and let them express themselves and provide a platform for them,” explained art and media coordinator Ben Arthur.
“For many, it’s the first step toward recovery,” added executive director Darlene Berry. As someone who battled depression and the fear of speaking, music was the artistic outlet that gave Berry her voice.
The show in Opelika, held at the Lewis Cooper Jr. Memorial Library, was the first of four that will be held across the state. Sharing art through the East Alabama Adult Day Services.
“We had traveled from Montgomery to come here and teach a class on pointillism (a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image),” explained Arthur. Arthur and Berry went sightseeing and ultimately found the opportunity to host the show in the basement of the library.
“It’s just wonderful to see folks emphasizing their strengths,” said East Alabama Mental Health director Dr. Anne Penney, who attended the reception to show support. “Sometimes in the past we have emphasized people’s illnesses and the things they had trouble doing instead of what wonderful talents they have. Any time people can feel good about their artwork, that assists their recovery in a lot of areas.”
Daniel Craddock was one of the artists whose work was featured in the show. He said the best part of expressing artist talent is being able to tap into his imagination, as he did in his piece, “Ethereal Stonehenge.”
“It’s reflection of not just the artist, but the life of the artist,” said Daniel Craddock, one of the artists whose work was displayed at the show. “I was thinking about doing a Stonehenge – just a mystical kind of image. I wanted to do something different … It’s dear to my heart.”

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