Student Artist: ‘I’m Not Hiding’

Daniella Amendola, Editor-in-Chief

A student art exhibit will highlight mental health.

Megan Cremins, senior occupational therapy major, decided to create the art exhibit for her Honors capstone.

“So I’m collecting artwork from students around campus, and also I’m trying to get faculty and staff, and they’re going to be doing artwork, paintings, poetry, photography, and it’s just going to just represent their experience with mental health problems,” said Cremins.

She said her goal is to to educate people about what it’s truly like to have a mental illness because, she said, “there’s a lot of stigma about it, unfortunately.”

The idea came to Cremins because of her own experiences with mental health.

“I just want to give people an opportunity to be given a visual representation of what that mental illness actually looks like or actually feels like. Because if you’re listening to someone talk about, like, what it’s like to be depressed or sad or things like that, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I get it,’ but I feel like when people see this artwork or read the poetry they’re like, ‘I actually get it, this is more than I imagined.’”

Cremins said some of the works represent the artists’ experiences with mental health and others represent subjects that uplift the spirits.

“I’m expecting around twenty pieces,” said Cremins. “It’s been a mix. So far I’ve got paintings and drawings, but I’m expecting photography, there’s going to be a few poems. I’m going to be submitting a few things myself. So it’s just a mix, a good mix.”

Cremins hopes to ignite a university-wide conversation about mental health..

“I feel like it’s not talked about enough. I mean they definitely try to have events for stuff, but I think having this event on campus is going to be great for a lot of students. We have to take a psychology class, most of us, but do we actually all get to look and experience what it is to have a mental illness?”

The event will also give a voice to the students, she said.

“Those participating and who are not participating to say, ‘This is me. I’m not hiding. This is me right here.’”

Cremins’s initially proposed her project to Dr. Rebecca Steinberger, Professor of English, who is her capstone advisor.

“I had the good fortune of having Megan in my Honors English lit class, and she came to me and said, ‘I know you have a disability and lit class, and that’s along the lines of what I’m working on,’ and she came up with this idea. So it will include artwork and poetry by artists with mental health issues or not.”

Cremins came to Steinberger’s classes to talk to her students about the exhibit, and how it aims to offer perceptions of what mental illness is.

“So she’s going to have these on display and students from my class have submitted,” said Steinberger.

The exhibit will be on display in Banks because of its accessibility to the students.

“It’s an area that gets a lot of traffic, and that’s really important because they may know that some of the artists and writers have mental illnesses, but not necessarily, and look at the perception, and everyone will learn something from it,” said Steinberger.

Steinberger also spoke about the stigma of mental illness as a factor to why the exhibit is important to showcase.

“The stigma of mental illness is still sticking, and we have event after event on our campus alone that tries to dispel those stigmas and myths, and it’s very lonely for people who suffer from mental illness, any kind of mental illness.”

Steinberger hopes that the exhibit educates people and raises awareness while also helping people to feel less lonely and misunderstood.

“I think that by [Cremins] stressing that artists can remain anonymous, that’s important, but I don’t think all the artists are going to remain anonymous. I spoke to some students who said it was good for them, it was therapeutic for them to express their feelings in this way.”

The exhibit will be held in Banks on April 11 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.