ST. JOSEPH — Resiliency is a skill, and it's a state of being.
"Resiliency can be dealt by individuals and communities, and practiced through some very straightforward strategies," said Tami Miller, Krasl Art Center's deputy director and curator. "We're using the visual arts as a way to discuss this, and discussing the things that resiliency is built from."
The Krasl will open its new exhibit, aptly titled "Resiliency," tomorrow. It will be on display through Dec. 1.
The exhibit was developed with Spectrum Health Lakeland.
Resiliency is the process of adapting in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats and even stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stresses.
In 2016, Lakeland completed a Community Health Needs Assessment in which mental health emerged as the most urgent need in Berrien County.
The same year, KAC decided on a new mission to inspire meaningful change and strengthening the community.
"Through combining our expertise in art, and theirs in wellness, we developed a theme, and put out a call for artists," Miller said. "We reviewed the entries together and developed the exhibit."
The exhibition features contemporary artists from across the nation working in painting, drawing, illustration, dance and printmaking.
"It's not just one kind of art. It's so diverse," Miller said. "Some artists are using representational and some are actually using art making to make their own resiliency."
She said some pieces are calming, while other encourage positive coping skills.
"This is a positive and immediate way people can build their own skills," Miller said. "They're going to explore this and find immediate ways to have them stay in the resiliency zone: staying grounded in a state of stress."
A call she must answer
For Christina E. Fontenelle, a Chicago psychotherapist and artist, resiliency is her theme in life.
"It just keeps coming up over and over again," she said in a recent phone interview. "It's just a call that I must answer. I like to do this to get messages across, and embody what I'm trying to get across."
Fontenelle will bring two pieces of art to the exhibition, as well as several dance workshops and a performance. The two art pieces focus around her work with migrant children.
"They crossed the border and experienced trauma," she said. "Movement was the only way to get through to them because they didn't speak Spanish or English. I created the pieces through my own self care."
To help others with their self care, she will put on two dance/movement therapy workshops at 11 a.m. Saturday at KAC, and at 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at Benton Harbor Public Library.
Through facilitation, she will lead attendees toward creative, nonjudgmental exploration of what self care means to them. The workshops include an ice-breaker, guided breathing meditation and skills/techniques that can be applied to everyday life.
"My workshops are based off my meditation journal, and I'd like to show people how that came about together," Fontenelle said.
At tomorrow's opening, she will have a performance at 7 p.m.
"For me it's an honor to be able to be part of a space where we're able to acknowledge what's happening, and resilience as an individual and a whole," Fontenelle said.
She hopes people leave the exhibit with self awareness and self love.
"If I can have one person from the performance, workshop or my artwork leave, and they love themselves a little more, then I've done my job," Fontenelle said. "I want people to love themselves the way they were meant to be loved."
The space in between
Artist John Gutoskey believes that everyone is resilient, whether it's in the day-to-day spaces we're in or the world as a whole.
"It's a miracle we're not blowing each others heads off," he said in a recent phone interview. "We all sort of deal with it."
Gutoskey explores his own resiliency, and that of the queer community, in his eight mixed media mono prints he's bringing to the Krasl from a collection he calls “Liminal Landscapes."
"It's looking at queerness as this in between space," he said. "They are an exploration of what makes a space liminal or queer, and how queer space is different from heteronormative space."
The Ann Arbor artist said it was his own experience growing up gay that lead him to explore queer spaces.
"I was sort of grateful in my 20s for growing up gay because it forced me to deal with it, do therapy, grow up, and be resilient, rebound and believe in myself when people were telling me I'm useless," he said.
He said he also looks at the resiliency theme through the resiliency of others he's encountered through his therapeutic body work.
"When you're traumatized, a portion of our life force is taken away from us, we have to compartmentalize to move on, so it's not in our day-to-day," Gutoskey said. "As you move through the trauma, you release the traumatic energy, and you literally feel energy come back to you."
He said that's what he hopes people get from the exhibit.
"I think it's great some of the mental health issues we're talking about here and making it be about something more than the artwork," Gutoskey said. "And how to seek out resources."
He said people these days need that with, for example, car accidents, surgery, abuse and veterans returning from war.
"You hope someone takes away something. If you see the work, there's a lot of arches and doorways and literal spaces," he said. "I'm just trying to develop imagery that could talk about this luminality and just trying to create images that are healing."
Other artists included in the exhibition are: Rachel Corbin, drawing, Nashville, Tenn.; Alli Farkas, painting, Dowagiac; Ginnie Hsu, illustration, New York; Olivia Hunter, photography, New York; the monarq, painting, Seattle; Sergio Goimez, painting, Chicago; and Martina Nehrling, painting, Chicago.
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