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Art First, Mental Illness Second

When we first start­ed work­ing with Peo­ple Incor­po­rat­ed, I was jazzed, to say the least. I didn’t know much about the almost 50-year-old orga­ni­za­tion, oth­er than that it pro­vid­ed a vari­ety of men­tal health ser­vices in the Twin Cities metro. But I did know it pro­vid­ed an amaz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for Bell­mont Part­ners to com­bine our exper­tise in work­ing with Twin Cities non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions with our spe­cial­ty in health care com­mu­ni­ca­tions, putting our strate­gic media rela­tions, con­tent mar­ket­ing and dig­i­tal approach into action to help raise aware­ness of the vital work that Peo­ple Incor­po­rat­ed does in our com­mu­ni­ty. Lit­tle did we know just how much we’d all get out of the part­ner­ship.

Flash for­ward a few months through hours of stake­hold­er inter­views, audi­ence map­ping, mes­sag­ing writ­ing, social media con­sult­ing and brain­storms, and it was time to put our strat­e­gy to work. While we’ve worked with Peo­ple Incor­po­rat­ed on mul­ti­ple com­mu­ni­ca­tions tac­tics since the begin­ning of our part­ner­ship, this week’s Arta­bil­i­ty Art Show & Sale pre­sent­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to real­ly rein­tro­duce Peo­ple Incor­po­rat­ed and its pro­grams to the Twin Cities.

Arta­bil­i­ty is a cel­e­bra­tion of the cre­ativ­i­ty and con­tri­bu­tions of peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness to our com­mu­ni­ty, and more than 100 Min­neso­ta artists par­tic­i­pate in the annu­al show. These mem­bers of our com­mu­ni­ties use the Arta­bil­i­ty show – and year-round work­shops – as an out­let to work through liv­ing with men­tal ill­ness and oth­er con­di­tions and cir­cum­stances. Just like I do, as some­one who buries her­self in work to cope with her men­tal ill­ness. (And those who know me know I don’t talk much about my depres­sion and anx­i­ety out loud, but boy do I tweet about it!)

Need­less to say, the teams here at Bell­mont Part­ners and at Peo­ple Incor­po­rat­ed made this project mean­ing­ful, enjoy­able and, most of all, impact­ful. The best part about get­ting to pro­mote Arta­bil­i­ty is the fact that the show and work­shops are first and fore­most about the art, and not about men­tal ill­ness. In fact, this notion of “per­son first” is key to each inter­ac­tion Peo­ple Incor­po­rat­ed has with a client in its inte­grat­ed sys­tem of care and is fueled by the real­i­ty that a person’s men­tal ill­ness does not define them.

It has been so love­ly to see these artists thrive and tru­ly love the art they’re mak­ing. One artist told us that Arta­bil­i­ty work­shops helped him and his wife cope with their men­tal and phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties in an acces­si­ble, approach­able way. And at the work­shops, they know the instruc­tors and fel­low artists “get it.” From KARE’s Break­ing the News to the Pio­neer Press, Vil­lager, Fox 9 and WCCO, we’ve been hon­ored to help edu­cate Min­nesotans about this amaz­ing pro­gram and orga­ni­za­tion right in their back­yard.

So, come enjoy the 23rd annu­al Arta­bil­i­ty Art Show & Sale this week Thurs­day – Sat­ur­day, Oct. 26–28, at the Great Hall in St. Paul. There will be live poet­ry and spo­ken-word per­for­mances, inter­ac­tive art instal­la­tions, a per­for­mance by the Twin Cities Com­mu­ni­ty Gospel Choir Thurs­day night, and more than 500 pieces of orig­i­nal, incred­i­ble art­work. Show hours and more infor­ma­tion can be found at:https://www.peopleincorporated.org/get-involved/artability/.

And if you’ve ever found your­self strug­gling with your men­tal health, and could use a cre­ative out­let, con­sid­er sign­ing up for one of the FREE pub­lic Arta­bil­i­ty work­shops! I’ve got my eye on the cre­ative jour­nal­ing class, per­son­al­ly.

See you at the Arta­bil­i­ty Art Show & Sale!

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