There is power in art. In creating it. In viewing it. In thinking about it. Recognizing the impact art can have on mental health, the Zepf Community Mental Health Center recently received funding from The David and Lura Lovell Foundation Designated Fund of the Greater Toledo Community Foundation to have local artist Gail Christofferson create community murals to address the issues many people face with mental illness. The mosaic murals provide individuals with mental health issues a means to share their journeys, learn new skills and educate the community about mental illness.
“Gail’s murals are one of the most unusual projects to come before the Foundation,” said Francine Lawrence, member of The David and Lura Lovell Foundation’s Board of Advisors for over 25 years. “The murals are a remarkable way of using the arts to engage with those who are homeless and mentally ill.”
The murals address the stigma related to mental illness. They are located on the City Paper Building on Adams and 12th Streets and on the corner of Perry and N. St. Clair Streets, both in downtown Toledo. Five Zepf Center clients created self-portraits on the City Paper mural. Portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Vincent Van Gogh, who both dealt with mental illness, are also included in the mural. The Perry Street mural focuses on an interactive approach with 3-D printed QR codes. Those viewing the mural can use the codes to get more information on mental health.
“The goal of the murals is to help start a conversation about mental illness, said Deb Flores, chief executive officer, Zepf Center. “And when you start to talk about it and understand it, you help remove the stigma that is often attached to it.”
“It takes different modalities to engage people,” said Deb. “This project brought together more than 50 clients from our Safety Net (youth homeless shelter), Adult Case Management, Adult Art Services and First Episode Psychosis, as well as members of our MOMS group, who helped piece the mosaic together.”
Showcasing the murals in downtown Toledo was also deliberate, with the goal of placing them in areas of heavy foot traffic to engage as many people as possible.
“The murals helped instill a sense of pride in those who contributed to it,” added Francine. “The murals will forever be a tribute to the artists who deal with mental illness and helped create them. They are also a lasting tribute to the Lovell family and all they have done to help bring awareness to the challenges associated with mental illness.”
Francine serves as the local liaison to The David and Lura Lovell Foundation which has maintained its commitment to meeting mental health needs in the Toledo area, although Lovell family members no longer live in Ohio.
“The relationship between the Lovell Foundation and Greater Toledo Community Foundation has been very satisfying and productive,” said Francine. “Chris Dziad, program officer with the Toledo Community Foundation, has been the perfect point person to work with. It’s been a flawless process.”