The healing power of art is being showcased in this exhibition.
“Art Heals” is on display through Feb. 27 at Bottle Works, 411 Third Ave., in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
The exhibit, a group show curated by Donald Talbot, professor of fine arts at Mount Aloysius College, includes works of art from participants in the Opening Minds through Art (OMA) Program; the Peer Empowerment Network; the H.O.P.E. Drop-in Center in Altoona; and Spindleworks in Brunswick, Maine.
The show features paintings and pencil and abstract works.
“One of our missions is to highlight artists of every kind in the community and across the region,” said Melody Tisinger, Bottle Works’ director of operations and advancement.
“That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to work with Mount Aloysius College. They’re showing that art is so useful and essential in various ways.
“It’s not just for entertainment, but also for healing.”
She said with the pandemic and the affect it has had on people, the exhibit is especially impactful.
“These pieces are really indicative of the times that we’ve been living in,” Tisinger said.
“There’s some pieces that have a political feel, some that are sad and others that show hope, so everything that we felt this past year is reflected in the artwork.”
In 2016, Mount Aloysius College, under the initiative of Talbot, partnered with Laurel View Village in Davidsville to implement the region’s first OMA program.
OMA is an intergenerational art program for people with dementia, grounded in person-centered ethics and founded on the fact that people with dementia are capable of expressing themselves creatively.
In 2017, a second OMA site was established at Richland Woods Assisted Living in Johnstown, and in 2019, a third OMA site at Garvey Manor in Hollidaysburg.
The program has been chiefly funded by 1889 Foundation Creative Health Impact grants.
In 2018, an initiative between Mount Aloysius College and Behavioral Health of Cambria County led to the creation of a community-based open studio arts site to serve Peer Empowerment Network’s Drop-in Center clients.
The Peer Empowerment Network Drop-in Center, often called the PEN Center, provides a safe, supportive and welcoming environment for individuals 18 and older living with and recovering from mental health issues.
Also in 2018, Talbot started a weekly open art studio for clients of H.O.P.E. Drop-in Center in Altoona.
H.O.P.E. Drop-in was established in 2014 by a small group of individuals with mental health diagnoses, who were seeking a safe, stigma-free environment to offer support to each other.
The group continued to meet and organize with an end goal of establishing a drop-in center that would be open daily for individuals with mental health issues.
Spindleworks is a nonprofit art center for adults with disabilities and a program of the Independence Association of Brunswick, Maine, whose mission is to help children and adults with disabilities achieve full and inclusive lives in their chosen communities.
“I’m from Maine and I’ve known about Spindleworks for a number of years, and when I was there visiting over the summer, I went to see them and I was really impressed with the things these folks are creating and thought they needed to be seen outside of Maine,” Talbot said.
“I asked the director there to borrow some work to show at the Mount and also include it in the Bottle Works show.”
He said for program participants, the art is transformational in many ways.
“It’s an opportunity to discover something about themselves that they may not be aware that they have – a skill, a talent, a release to deal with emotional or physical pain,” Talbot said.
“It’s almost like having air to breathe in some instances and it’s life-changing.”
He said the goal of the “Art Heals” exhibit is to show viewers that individuals with disabilities have a great deal to express through their art making.
“These are not professionally trained artists,” Talbot said.
“They are working intuitively with what feels right for them in the moment. The result can be quite unbelievable and stunning.”
Tisinger said the exhibit is inspirational to view.
“We hope that it opens your perspective to see something from someone else’s vantage point and maybe an art piece may challenge an idea you may have or haven’t had,” she said.
“You might never have thought of art as a healing medium, so maybe this will encourage that curiosity to go on your own journey.”
In addition, Tisinger said the show helps to shed light on the programs offered throughout the region that support healing.
“There are ways to feel better and this is a way for us to highlight pathways to support that might not have been known,” she said.
Those attending are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing.
There is no admission to attend the exhibition.
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
For more information, call 814-535-2020 or visit www.bottleworks.org.