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Steve Harlow

Art In The Clubhouse

April 7, 2002

Barbara pointed us to this article:

Where Postmodern Art and Schizophrenia Intersect
By ELEANOR MUNRO
New York Times

March 31, 2002

She asked us what our take on it was, we answered that our take goes something like this:

Attention being paid to artists with mental illness is welcome, we'd like the attention to serve a compensatory purpose. Those suffering mental illness have, through the millennia, been shunned by the majority population who fear the sufferer's symptomatic behaviors. Attention on artists with mental illness could help ease fear. When the compensation period is over and corrective action has changed the culture, there will be no need for a seperate track for art by mentally ill artists.

Ruth has not had a lasting interest in Art Therapy, although she recognizes its place. But, when Artists with mental illness make Art and have shows, we see "Art For Art's Sake", that's what interests us.

The Art in art therapy is created by the therapist who designs, communicates, and supervises the art therapy project. Artworks created by the participants are part of the project, not free-standing pieces, however attractive. The clubhouse model, which Fountain House developed, does not offer therapy of any kind.

Our interest is in "Stigma Busting", that is, easing unnecessary fear of mental illness within the general population. Fountain Gallery is an exhibition space dedicated to the work of artists who have mental illness and are members of the private clubhouse, Fountain House. The exhibits are intended as Fine Art - that is, "Art For Art's Sake". If the stigma is eased, if mental illness is viewed the same as other illness, art by artists with mental illness would not be a separate category.

It's inappropriate to think of "Artists with Cancer" as a separate track. They would not be "Outsiders". However, if artists, who, after being diagnosed with cancer, focus their art on portraying or exploring their experience of their disease, the work may legitimately, be collected into a show about Artists With Cancer Making Art About Their Cancer. Though this would only have limited value, it does seem legitimate enough for a show or two. We would expect, here, the art would be received as Fine Art, not therapy. Likewise, there could be a limited interest in gathering together an exhibit of work by artists with mental illnesses, who make art about mental illness. The emphasis should, even here, be on the Art as Fine Art.

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