Creations of Hope gallery brings mental illness to light

Lisa Herdman

The Creations of Hope gallery features “The Visionary Spoon,” a collection of art focused on addressing mental illness and will be available from May to June in the Yeldarb Gallery in North Topeka.

Valeo Behavioral Health Care provides the venue for participants in its program to bring awareness and expression for their clients.

“The mission of the gallery is raise awareness and challenge misperceptions of mental illness through the power of the art,” said Cara Weeks, an art therapist at Valeo. “Additionally, through the gallery we hope to empower the artists involved.”

The current gallery highlights the work of three main artists including Matt Coward, Robert Harsh and Janice Atkins.

Weeks said that the three artists agreed on this title after finding that they all used their art to transform everyday objects into objects of wonder.

Janice Atkins is an artist from Kansas City that creates elaborate and humorous watercolor still–life paintings.

Matt Coward, from Topeka, incorporates found objects into abstract paintings and sculptures. Robert Harsh creates sculptural fantasy scenes using objects such as forks and plastic bottles.

The Creations of Hope gallery started as an annual art exhibit by Valeo held in October of each year. In 2015 the gallery was expanded to feature different themes all throughout the year.

Fifty to 60 main artists participate in the project, including some outside of the Valeo program. Artists from Topeka, Kansas City, Lawrence and many other places gather to group their artwork together. The project is funded through grants and donations and the artists receive the proceeds from the sale of their artwork.

The Creations of Hope Gallery is an ongoing gallery that will be featured in the upstairs section of the Yeldarb Art Gallery. Artists are welcome to submit their work for certain months in advance.

Weeks said the next gallery for July through August is entitled “Rise: Female Empowerment through Art” and is open for submissions now. It will be opening Friday, July 1 and will feature the work of three artists from Topeka: Dottie Cobb, Mary St. John and Patricia Pickering. Painting, photography and assemblage mediums will be featured to present themes of growth, healing, societal change and reliance in recovery.

Valeo BHC offers programs including art psychotherapy, art and music rehabilitation and expressive therapy psychosocial groups. These programs pose creativity and expression as a solution that can use healthy progressive strategies against mental illness and may help patients with recovery.

“I believe the importance of the gallery is that it provide a starting point for the discussion about mental illness,” Weeks said. “The artists use their work to provide a personal window into their experiences and stories.The Creations of Hope gallery presents a view of mental illness that highlights the creative strengths of the artists and views of hope, resiliency, transformation and recovery from mental illness.”

For more information, contact Cara Weeks at (785) 357-0580.