By Cameron Wall
A Shirlington art exhibit is broaching the topic of mental health and illness by spotlighting the work of artists participating in an Arlington County behavioral health care program.
The Arlington County Department of Human Services launched Expressive Arts Groups as one of its mental health programs nearly a decade ago, bringing participants with a passion for the arts together and offering them a form of creative release. The group hosted its first show in 2008 with subsequent shows ever since. The program has grown in the intervening years, and the DHS now hosts five weekly art groups. The collective behind this particular exhibit, made up of nine artists between ages 20 and 65, call themselves the Artists of the Sequoia Roundtable, and their show opened at Theatre on the Run‘s 3700 Gallery in December featuring 22 pieces. The mediums span ink, acrylic, watercolor, pastel and pencil.
“It’s not an art therapy group; it’s literally a group for people who enjoy art,” Marti Mefford, co-facilitator of the Expressive Art Groups, says. “We let them do their thing, and they end up being a support for each other. They end up becoming their own kind of subculture within the mental health agency.”
With the success of its art groups, the Arlington DHS has already expanded with knitting and yoga classes, and it has plans to add creative writing and photography programs in the future. The Expressive Art Groups’ annual show will take place in July.
The Artists of the Sequoia Roundtable exhibit, sponsored by Arlington Cultural Affairs, closes on Jan. 15 with a special closing ceremony on Jan. 11 from 4 to 6 p.m.