UNC Health Care

Art and mental health collide in schizophrenia art exhibit

For several patients of the UNC Department of Psychiatry STEP (Schizophrenia Treatment and Evaluation Program) program, April 18 was a hallmark day. It is the opening of a four-month exhibit – Brushes with Life: Art, Artists, and Mental Illness – at the North Carolina Museum of Art and they are the featured artists.

After considerable planning, the museum and the Department of Psychiatry initiated a yearlong series of programs in May 2003 to provide structured, creative opportunities for psychiatric outpatients. Along with psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, artists and art therapists conducted a successful pilot series of workshops at UNC with patients and staff that included painting, drawing with pencil and oil pastels, and clay projects. Additional workshops were held through early 2004 and wrapped up with a day of instruction at the museum. The final result – an exhibition at the museum that will conclude with a traveling show to visit various parts of North Carolina through arts councils and other venues.

“The STEP art gallery committee is very excited about our exhibit at NCMA,” said Dr. Nancy Clayton, UNC Department of Psychiatry assistant professor and chair of the STEP Art Committee.  “We hope to highlight the talent of our artists and demonstrate that artists dealing with mental illness can be creative and productive.  The reception and exhibition at NCMA will bring our artist’s work to a larger public audience and hopefully target stigma associated with chronic mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”

“We hope to highlight the talent of our artists and demonstrate that artists dealing with mental illness can be creative and productive.”

UNC Health Care and AstraZeneca support this initiative, with a goal to promote mental health awareness and advance the understanding, prevention and treatment of mental illness across North Carolina. The exhibition will be celebrated with an opening reception on May 8, in conjunction  with May as N.C. Mental Health Awareness Month. This opening event and the exhibition both provide excellent venues to raise awareness among North Carolinians of the specials gifts possessed by those with mental illnesses. Additionally, this four-month exhibit and its subsequent statewide traveling exhibition will provide educational outreach to many communities of our state.

About the STEP Art Gallery

Brushes with Life: Art, Artists, & Mental Illness is a patient art gallery located on the 3rd floor of the North Carolina Neurosciences Hospital – in the halls approaching the Psychotic Disorders Inpatient Unit. This unit is a part of STEP, which provides inpatient and outpatient care of patients dealing with psychotic symptoms or illnesses such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

The goal and purpose is to provide both inpatients and outpatients of STEP with an opportunity to display their artwork and, since its inception, approximately 100 patient-artists have had their artwork displayed in the permanent gallery.

The gallery features artwork from former STEP inpatients, current STEP clinic outpatients, and clients from Club Nova, a local clubhouse for the mentally ill in Carrboro. The goal and purpose is to provide both inpatients and outpatients of STEP with an opportunity to display their artwork and, since its inception, approximately 100 patient-artists have had their artwork displayed in the permanent gallery. By inspiring patients to be creative and productive using different mediums for expression, the hope is to portray mental illness in a more positive light, thus decreasing the social stigmas surrounding such mental illnesses as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

About the N.C. Museum of Art

The North Carolina Museum of Art’s permanent collection spans more than 5,000 years, from ancient Egyptian to the present, making it the premier visual arts museum in the Southeast. The museum uses its collection to provide educational, aesthetic, intellectual and cultural experiences for the citizens of North Carolina and beyond. The Museum offers a series of changing national touring exhibitions, classes, lectures, family activities, films and concerts. NCMA is the only art museum in North America situated on a 164-acre Museum Preserve and has an unprecedented partnership with NC State University for the environmental management and preservation of the undeveloped land.

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a major international research based pharmaceutical company engaged in the development, manufacture and marketing of ethical (prescription) pharmaceutical products.  The company produces a wide range of products that make significant contributions to patient care andtreatment options for cancer and gastrointestinal disorders, anesthesia (including pain management), cardiovascular disease, respiratory and neurological disorders.  AstraZeneca PLC is headquartered in London with its U.S. headquarters located in Wilmington, Delaware.  For more information about AstraZeneca, please visit www.astrazeneca-us.com.

Note to media: For information about the exhibition or to interview Dr. Clayton or a patient artist, call (919) 966-9115.

Contact: Crystal Hinson Miller, (919) 966-9115, hinsonmiller@med.unc.edu