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Leading Links Art Exhibit Credit: Andres De los Rios , Andres De los Rios, Andres De los Rios, Andres De los Rios, Andres De los Rios

Last night, art took one of its least expected forms through the works exhibited by CareLink Community Support Services — an agency providing support to those with mental illnesses.

Along with the Wharton Management group Leading Links, CareLink proudly proved that complexity and beauty can come from anyone, regardless of his or her state of mental health.

Held in the basement of Claudia Cohen Hall, CareLink’s second annual art exhibit
— “Journey to Recovery” — amazed many with an arrangement of photographs, paintings and even poems, created by individuals suffering from mental illnesses and disabilities.

Through this channel, as explained by Wharton freshman Aidan Thornton , “those with disabilities are able to see themselves as artists rather than identifying themselves based on their disease. So now you are no longer a schizophrenic, but an artist or a photographer.”

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Thornton’s statement aligns with the organization’s goal of instilling independence in its participants by means of psychological rehabilitation and community integration.

A walk through the gallery’s various rooms revealed anything from peaceful oceanic sceneries to colorful forests in mid-autumn, and even the lines of a rap artist blasting through a speaker. Everywhere, visitors marveled at what can only be described as the visual products of hours upon hours of effort, support and self-determination.

“The fascination, vulnerability, and love embodied in all of [the] art works touched me deeply,” said College junior Pablo Abrante, who had visited the gallery. “I hope [they] all continue to enjoy art as a source of expression.”

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Halfway through the gallery’s opening night, CEO of CareLinks Eileen Joseph gathered everyone’s attention so that visitors could hear what the artists themselves had to say about their works, experiences and perspectives. After a fun reading by poet John Briddes — which involved a complex battle between Darth Vader, Lord Voldemort and Mario — photographer Hank Schott described how, to him, “photography is an opportunity to make memories or keep memories … All I want to do is make memories with my photos and hope that whatever memories I have captured would invoke some of the same emotions I get from looking at something that I stay with.”

So far, the gallery has proven to be a full-on success. With a new online tool to help them show their art to a wider public, CareLink and Leading Links rushed through their goal of selling at least 10 percent of their works within hours of the exhibition’s opening.

Finally, with a gentle smile on her face, Joseph closed the evening by reminding everyone of the program’s message. “[We] must see the person, and not the disease … because everybody has something to give, we just have be to open to see the person and receiving what they give us.”

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