Art as Mental Health

Posted on October 18, 2011
Urban Technicolor by Marty CohenUrban Technicolor by Marty CohenOn Monday, October 10, Marty Cohen and I represented Fountain Gallery in a dynamic panel discussion on Art as Mental Health at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). In addition to the discussion, Marty gave a fantastic presentation on his life as a working artist with Schizophrenia that included several slides of his mixed media, abstract artwork. The evening was sponsored by Joshua Wolf Shenk, co-founder of the Arts in Mind series, which is meant to engage artists whose work touches on mental health issues, and Carrie McGee of MoMA’s Education and Research division.

Roughly 100 people came out to listen and participate in the conversation between visual artists with a history of mental illness and representatives of three organizations where art fosters community, creativity and healing. We were joined by representatives from The Bridge and Austen Riggs Center, two organizations with innovative art programs for artists with mental illness.

While there was some positive discussion on the role of art studios and art therapy (which we do not practice), Marty and I stressed that, at Fountain Gallery, artists play an active role in operating a professional art space, which is just as effective in promoting mental health. One of the gallery’s programmatic goals is to create partnerships with other like-minded individuals and organizations, expanding the resources that our member-artists take advantage of. The Gallery has evolved into a more inclusive arts organization, working with other artists, galleries, non-profit organizations and various private sector industries. By doing this, Fountain Gallery plays a dual role in fostering mental health for its artists by providing a supportive environment and playing professionally in the New York art world.

Fountain Gallery artist, Paula Isaac, who was in the audience that evening, stood up to state that she was an artist who also happened to have a mental illness, clarifying that she was an artist first and that mental illness may have contributed to, but was not the cause of, her artistic ability. This sparked an interesting dialogue about the artist’s role in breaking stigma, while still maintaining their primary role as artists. While Fountain Gallery has a very specific mission, the majority of our shows do not revolve around mental health issues, and many of our patrons come to see the exhibitions because of the quality of the work. Still, I explained that some of our patrons are intrigued by our mission and are aware that when they purchase work, their dollars contribute to maintaining the important work of the gallery and its artists.

Fountain Gallery is very excited to have participated in this important community forum and acknowledge that our involvement in this dialogue has ensured a strong partnership with Arts in Mind and MoMA. In fact, through October 30, the Museum’s Education and Research Center (4 West 54th Street) will hang five Fountain Gallery artist’s work (Martin Cohen, Iaeden Hovorka, Paula Isaac, Anthony Newton, Vladimir Nikolski) in its current show. Make sure you check it out!

Fountain Gallery is located at 702 Ninth Avenue at West 48th Street. 

Jason Bowman
Director, Fountain Gallery

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