Monday, October 22 , 2018, 12:01 am | Fair 61º


Mental Health Arts Festival to Showcase Creative Talents

The Santa Barbara event aims to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness

Many artists in the community who are living with mental illness are gearing up for their favorite event of the year — adding finishing touches to paintings, sculptures, hand-crafted jewelry and more.

The 16th annual Mental Health Arts Festival, hosted by the Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara County, will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at De la Guerra Plaza.

The Mental Health Arts Festival showcases the creativity of many residents and aims to reduce the stigma of mental illness. It also supports their talents by giving participants an opportunity to display their artwork.

“We are proud to host this special event during National Mental Illness Awareness Week in an effort to raise awareness and honor the achievements of our talented artists,” said Annmarie Cameron, executive director of the Mental Health Association.

Since 1990, mental health advocates across the country have joined together during the first week of October to celebrate and strengthen communities by promoting public education about serious mental illnesses, such as severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“Stigma is a major barrier to people seeking help with their mental illness when they need it, and that is why education is so important,” Cameron said. “The Mental Health Arts Festival not only helps raise awareness, but it also gives our participants a time to creatively express themselves in unique and beautiful ways and to share that directly with our community.”

The free event will feature paintings, drawings, sculptures, jewelry, music and poetry readings, as well as educational materials on mental illness, treatment options and community resources. Raffle tickets are $1, and prizes include gift certificates from many local businesses.

This year’s event honors Robert Keeler, a talented and prolific artist who had many requests to purchase his work, especially his many colorful and whimsical rendering of the Santa Barbara Mission. His art was influenced by the techniques and subjects of Van Gogh, who he knew also lived with mental illness.

“I begged Robert to let me buy one of his Mission paintings,” says Jan Winter, a festival volunteer, “but he would never sell them to anyone. Two years ago, at the Arts Festival, he surprised me with one of them as a gift. I really treasure the painting, and was so sad to hear of his tragic death last February. We will miss his quiet presence and wonderful art at this year’s festival.”

Several works by Keeler will be featured posthumously at the event; he was killed in February in a crosswalk accident.

For more information about the festival, click here or call the Mental Health Association at 805.884.8440.

— Daniella Elghanayan is a publicist.

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