The museum is a place of belonging, expression, where outsiders are not just welcome but celebrated. Many who are here are those who would otherwise feel alone. In fact, creative people are 25% more likely to suffer from mental health issues. That is just one of the reasons this issue is so personal to me.
Museums and other creative spaces can absolutely help people in their mental wellness. Creative expression often becomes an opportunity to process issues people may be struggling with. That is why these have been places people have turned for strength and community.
For example, we just exhibited an artist that had a serious heroin addiction. He had been to treatment centers/mental institutions but it was ultimately his art that helped him stay sober.
This city and county has seen tremendous growth. As many prosper, a lot of people are getting left behind. The energy in Denver is exciting but we have to pay attention to those among us who may need help.
Recently, one of the leaders in our art community, Colin Ward, took his life. He was an incredibly talented artist and was the leader of the “do-it-yourself” segment of the Denver art community. He was an occupant, creator and outsized creative mind behind Rhinoceropolis, a legendary DIY venue. That space was closed due to code issues and its tenants evicted, losing what we now know was a critical antidote for Colin’s challenges.
Colin had an energizing effect on our community, something I didn’t recognize fully until he was gone. His death dampened the community in a way; there was a tense feeling of resentment.
I didn’t immediately recognize how the museum could help until this initiative came along and I realized that we have the power to act. We can and should help our friends, family and neighbors when any of us are facing challenges.
Denver MCA would like to do more to connect our youth audience by working with Mental Health Denver to help identify mental health issues within that peer group. Those types of programs are viable and successful and something that could be supported when this measure passes.
Caring 4 Denver will not only help support programs but also create a dialogue in our community where people can seek treatment in whatever form that may appear.
Photo credit; Caleb Alvarado