Art to Heal: A Local Artist’s Journey to Overcome the Obstacles of Life

Over the past few weeks I have come to learn more about Austin State Hospital, or ASH, and their various art programs and events. Since 1857 Austin State Hospital has provided psychiatric care to those with mental illnesses in Austin and the State of Texas. The hospital has a creative arts therapy program for current patients as well as a strategic plan to create a community Arts Space where individuals with mental illnesses can go to continue their healing process after being discharged through dance, visual arts, music and drama.  This past Friday, I checked them out for myself.  I had the pleasure of meeting with Bess Green, Art Therapist at ASH, and Susan Lee, an artist and current patient.

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The proposed design of ASH’s Art Space

The creative arts therapy program is one of their most successful at ASH, and is centered on the idea that healing can happen not only through traditional therapy and medication but also through creativity and art.  The Arts Space project, in its first phase of funding, hopes to be a continuance of the creative arst therapy program and stretch beyond current patients so as to stop the “revolving door scenario” of those recovering having to be hospitalized again.   The Arts Space would be a place where artists like Susan would be able to come and use space to create their art not only as an outlet for healing but also to further themselves as professional artists.

Susan Lee, a published author and emerging artist has always seen art as a way to release pent-up energy and frustrations.  She has also seen it as a way to connect with others when she cannot always say what she wants to verbally.  Her art, for me, is delicate yet also strong with vibrant colors and solid line work.  She says her favorite drawings to create are depictions of Jesus, a passion that can be seen in her drawings.

Acrylic by Susan Lee. Photo by Katie

Drawing by Susan Lee. Photo by Katie

Watercolor by Susan Lee. Photo by Katie

Ms. Lee’s book, Baphomet: The Apocalypse, which can be purchased at Amazon.com, is what she describes as a comedy tragedy.  It is a story of her journey as a foster child struggling to find her way to enlightenment and the many dark people and places she encounters on the way.

“I met him on a sweet warm night, that vampire Brad. It was not that he drank of blood but that his empathy lavished in the power of auras.   Many other maidens had been lured in by his reasons for conceit.  I was one of them…Slick locks gowned his face to the brow, a sinister split in the middle…His piercing blue eyes are what made the best of him.  They had known murder. “

                                              – An excerpt from Baphomet: The Apocalypse, by Susan Lee

Cover art for Baphomet: The Apocalypse by Susan Lee. Photo by Katie

Susan started creating art at a very young age.  She was always pushed by adults around her to draw, “instead of playing with dolls and toys like most other kids do, I was drawing”.   Her usual medium is acrylic; however with constraints at the hospital, most of her current work is drawings and watercolors.  Susan modestly describes her work as more cartoonish. I viewed it as refreshingly simplistic.  Not simplistic as in lacking, but quite the opposite; complex because of its simplicity.  While Susan’s current situation may not be her ideal, she looks at it with optimism and room for growth.  Or in her words, “It is better to laugh than cry”.

Watercolor by Susan Lee. Photo by Katie

Acrylic by Susan Lee. Photo by Katie

More of Susan Lee’s work can be found on DeviantArt.com

To make a donation to the ASH Arts Space, creative arts therapy program, or other programs at ASH please click here.

ASH’s creative arts program is also looking for volunteers! Are you an artist in any discipline looking to lend your talents?  Click here!

Blog by Katie

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A Global Roots Fundraiser for the Amala Foundation: Think Globally and Act Locally in Austin

On Sunday June 24th, I attended an inspiring night of community, music and art.

Entrance to CTC Garden. Photo by Lucas

It was the 6th Annual Global Roots fundraiser held at CTC Garden in East Austin to benefit the Global Youth Peace Summit. The event was presented by the Amala Foundation along with CTC International, Urban Roots, The Austin Junior Chamber of Commerce, The Khabele School, and Generous Art.

Indu Agrawal and Tammy Howard with the Amala Foundation. Photo by Lucas

It was certainly a lively and engaging night of live global music. The line up included Bamako Airlines, Minor Mishap Marching Band, Hard Proof Afrobeat. The evening was kicked off with ZaBoomBa: An Interactive Drum Experience, lead by Kenya Masala. He had the crowd drumming in call-and-response style that brought us all into focus.
It was fantastic.

Kenya Masala of ZaBoomBa leading the interactive drum experience. Photo by Lucas

Click here to see ZaBoomBa: An Interactive Drum Experience, lead by Kenya Masala

Vanessa Stone, Founder of the Amala Foundation, (seated left). Ryan Jordan, Executive Director, (standing). Photo by Lucas

There was a silent auction and an art show presented by Generous Art which included work by Jennifer Chenoweth whom I recognized from the East Austin Studio Tours. Aside from being an accomplished artist, she cooks a great Posole, but that’s another blog. Speaking of food, delicious Indian cuisine was available on sight, à la Austin trailer style. I enjoyed a plate of spicy lamb stew and rice among good company.

Face painting with Randi Southard and Laven Blumoff. Photo by Lucas

This year’s Global Youth Peace Summit, August 12-19th will unite 70 youth from 25+ different countries for an 8-day youth summit devoted to cultural exchange, heart-centered dialogue, healing, and exploration of self and world.

Face painting was enjoyed by Talia Masala and friend. Photo by Lucas

As of post date, The Amala Foundation raised $4,000 which will enable them to purchase airline tickets so that two Kenyan youth will be able to attend this year’s Global Youth Peace Summit. While they have yet to raise enough money to cover their passport, visa and scholarship fees, we trust that this funding is on its way ($2500 additional).

Maya Adjani. Photo by Lucas

It was a delight to meet Maya Adjani, of Breathe, Eat, Dance, Evolve and to sample her home-made raw chocolates.

If you feel inspired to help support these youth as well as other under-served, local and international children in their efforts to make a difference in their communities and in their lives, you can make a tax-deductible donation by visit: www.amalafoundation.org/donate.

For more about the Amala Foundation and the Global Youth Peace Summit
visit: www.amalafoundation.org

Blog by Lucas