The fifth annual Journey of Hope Exhibit, a project that pairs writers with local artists to share stories of hope and recovery, will be held at the Elk Grove Fine Arts Center, starting on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 4-7 p.m.
Those juried artists receive those stories and illustrate them through their chosen art form. At the opening ceremony, they finally get a chance to meet the writer.
Organizers hope to give others insight, inspiration, understanding, strength, connection and to raise awareness of mental illness, and dismantle the stigma that goes along with it.
“One in five people walking in the U.S. live with a mental health disorder. It’s more prevalent than heart disease,” Laura Bemis, event co-founder and photographer, said. “We got to get word out there.”
She was a staff photographer for the Citizen for more than 30 years.
As Journey of Hope continues to grow from year to year, these types of messages continue to spread. Due to the increase in its popularity, the event this year will travel outside of Elk Grove to the Sacramento Fine Arts Center from Oct. 29 to Nov. 17, and the Crocker Art Museum from Nov. 28 to Jan. 5.
Since everyone is juried in, it’s always quality art and improves each year, Bemis said. Early each year, a four-member event organizing committee puts a call out for writers and artists. The story could be in a narrative format or a poem at a maximum of two pages in length. The committee does not make changes without consent.
While attending a recent mental health board meeting, someone approached Bemis and suggested she participate in the Journey of Hope.
“They talked about how they loved it, how I could really express myself it,” she recalled. “They asked if I have done it before, and I said I was the founder.”
As a humbling moment, Bemis said that experience demonstrated the growing popularity of Journey of Hope.
“We are bringing awareness and stopping the stigma,” she said. “We must be doing something to be reaching people each year.”
Bemis added that this year there are 54 writers and 54 artists in the traveling show.
“We get more and more artists who want to be part of the show... In years past, we scrambled to find artists at the last minute,” she said.
She added that this year they had to turn away artists because the amount outweighed the writers.
One of the writers, Michael Winsor, compared the challenges he has faced with mental health to the ocean.
“(It) can be ice-cold, stormy, and thrashing,” he said. “But it also has a bright and beautiful side. As my journey continues, the storms have become less intense, and less frequent. I am learning to ride with the waves.”
He was excited to meet the artist who interpreted his personal story.
“It is amazing to know that someone else has been inspired to portray it for everyone to see. I’m very excited,” Winsor said.
To experienced mixed-media artist Kaino Hopper, Journey of Hope is her favorite of all experiences to date.
“This show’s connection to lived experience requires of me to go beyond myself, into someone else’s world, and then add a bit of myself into the story as I interpret it from the newly discovered depths of being one with the story,” she said.
Her third year with the project, Hopper said the show is about more than raising awareness – it’s about cultivating a new level of understanding.
“I hope my art makes the audience curious about the depths and beauty that come from facing and befriending challenges,” she said.
The title of the story and of Hopper’s artwork is: “BIPOLAR: from drowning to swimming with.”
She said the word “rhythm” was the most powerful word in the writer’s short story, and that to her as an artist, it gave an image of acceptance – of moving with her life events, not against them.
To that end, Hopper chose the medium of weaving to demonstrate the author’s words of finding a rhythm to managing her life with her bipolar disorder, while incorporating the Saori style, which she said, “works intuitively and without a plan, which to me seemed to mimic the process of life described by the author.”
Hopper added the author also speaks of water being a very important component of her experience with bipolar disorder as well as her experience of healing. Therefore, she incorporated two water elements into the art piece: hand-made wet felted fabric for a face and heart set, and hand-sewn polyester “patchwork” hair.
“With these mediums, water is a key element in the process, and so I was able to tie that component into the art from the very beginning of the process,” Hopper said. “The final product is ultimately a sculpture of the author, at peace and living well with her condition. I hope the writer will understand the complex level that the story touched me – on how many levels she touched a compassionate heart. Her story is bursting with hope, and shows that if you keep trying, you can find a way to make life work with you.”
Her other artworks are also in fiber in multiple methods, from serti silk painting, weaving, fiber sculpting, felting and mixed media. Three of her art projects are on permanent display at UC Davis campus connected to the Entomology Art Science fusion process.
“Most of my art explores the idea of moving from tension to acceptance. I’ve shown and spoken on my arts and fashions internationally,” she added.
Stop Stigma Sacramento, a program funded by the Sacramento County Division of Behavioral Health Services, provides the financial and logistical support for Journey of Hope.
While exhibit visitors may wish to buy art, pieces will not be for sale during the show. However, artists may sell their artwork afterward.
The show in Elk Grove continues through Oct. 23. Art center hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The Arts Center is located at 9683 Elk Grove-Florin Road.