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Visitors to the “Journey to Recovery” art gallery in examine a piece of art. The gallery displayed artwork created by people who suffer from mental illness.

Credit: Abby Graham

A group of 10 students are helping to dispel the stigma around mental illness through art.

“Journey to Recovery” is an art show currently housed in Claudia Cohen Hall.

The show was organized by a group of Wharton students in conjunction with Carelink Community Support Services, an organization devoted to serving individuals suffering from mental and physical disabilities.

The exhibit comes as the culmination of three months of preparation, as part of a group project for the students’ Management 100 class.

College and Wharton freshman Marisa Bruno, one of the student organizers, stressed that the show wasn’t just about mental health. “Carelink does a really good job, especially with the exhibit, of showing that there’s more to people than their illnesses.”

Bruno has a close relative that suffers from mental illness and knows intimately how an individual may not “want to be defined by their illness — [they] want to be defined by everything else about them.”

The show, which goes on until Nov. 27, features the paintings, photographs and other media forms of artists and amateurs whom Carelink serves.

Many of the artworks are for sale and the proceeds will go directly to the artists.

Carelink President and CEO Eileen Joseph spoke at the gallery opening Tuesday night about the role artistic expression plays in overcoming illness and empowering the artists.

“For many people, it’s a wonderful way to reconnect their vision of life,” she said. In participating in the exhibit, she hopes artists will feel that they “have given joy and beauty to others.”

Bob Wentzel, a photographer who had photos on display, spoke about what art meant to him. “It takes me away from my illness,” he said. “When I’m out shooting, when I get behind the camera, I’m in my own little zone.”

The exhibit is a first for Carelink, which had been hoping to put on a show for some time, according to Carelink Director of Development Ann Phillips. The goal was to destigmatize mental illness.

The exhibit was also a learning opportunity for the students who organized it.

College freshman Jessica Chen said contact with Phillips became so frequent that the team progressed from writing “a lot of emails” to phone calls and “now we just text.”

Beyond organizational skills members of the group also learned to look past the stigma attached to mental illness. According to Bruno, the team “learned to question how [they] identify people.”

“There’s more to the nerd than being a nerd, there’s more to the jock than being a jock, there’s more to a schizophrenic than being schizophrenic,” she said.

Other visitors to the gallery seconded this notion. “I didn’t know [the works] were made by patients with mental illness until I looked at the program,” said College freshman Javier Garcia-Tafoya.

“Imagination,” he said, “is not impaired by mental illness.”

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