UMSL show reveals talent, emotions of those with mental illness; others can learn and enjoy | St. Louis Public Radio

UMSL show reveals talent, emotions of those with mental illness; others can learn and enjoy

May 28, 2015

One out of every four people will experience mental illness in any given year. And 100 percent of them can be artists, according to an exhibit at UMSL’s Gallery 210.

The Connecting Communities Through Art exhibition, sponsored by the Missouri Institute of Mental Health (MIMH) and the St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center (SLPRC), shows the art of people with mental illness. It includes a few pieces by those who work with this population and others who have family members with mental illness.

The gallery will hold a closing ceremony Saturday that lets visitors work with art therapists. Then, the exhibit will find a temporary new home at the SLPRC.

Andrea Purnell
Credit Nancy Fowler

Andrea Purnell is communications and artistic director of MIMH. She believes the exhibit can help people understand more about mental health.

“Art is a way that can really bring us all together,” Purnell said.

Purnell hopes the show will help dispel false beliefs about mental illness.

“One of the biggest myths regarding mental health consumers is that they are dangerous,” Purnell said. “And the reality is the person with the mental health challenge is a lot more likely to be the victim of a crime than they are to commit a crime.”

People also have unfounded beliefs around suicide, according to Purnell.

“There is very much the thought that if you talk about it, that you’re encouraging someone to perform the act and that’s absolutely not true,” Purnell said. “Mentioning, ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ to someone that possibly could, could be just the help they need.”

‘This is how I feel’

Rita Schneider, playing bongos at the Independence Center, is exhibiting in the Gallery 201 show.
Credit Nancy Fowler

Rita Schneider is one of dozens of artists in the show. She lives with depression. But she’s mostly happy now that’s she found meaningful volunteer work at the Independence Center for people with mental illness, and has reconnected with family, including a grandson.

Silent Soul by Rita Schneider is in the exhibition. Schneider said she was not thinking about The Scream by Edvard Munch when she painted it.
Credit Nancy Fowler

Schneider makes art almost every day and also enjoys playing the bongos. For her, the arts are a means of getting her emotions out and expressing herself to others.

“It’s the only way I can reach out to people and say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing, this is how I feel,” Schneider said.

She likes knowing that her work is on view to the public.

“It makes me feel good about myself because it’s out in the world where people can see it,” Schneider said.


‘Connecting Communities Through Art’ exhibition

Where: Gallery 210, UMSL campus, 44 East Drive, TCC One University Blvd., 63121

When: Last regular showing 11-5 p.m., Friday, May 29; Closing ceremony 1-4 p.m., Saturday, May 30

How much: Free

Information: Gallery 210 website

Follow Nancy Fowler on  Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL