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Colloquium on Creativity and Mental Health
March 23 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
The Borgia Gallery, in collaboration with Anchor House of Artists in Northampton, will host a free public colloquium on creativity and mental illness from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 23.
“This colloquium will provide a venue for the public to learn about and discuss mental illness — its complexities, realities and common misconceptions — through an artist’s life and work. Speakers from both the art world and health professions will bring multiple perspectives, painting a fuller picture,” said Borgia Gallery curator Cecily Hughes.
The colloquium will be held in conjunction with “Genevieve Mae Burnett: A Retrospective,” an exhibition of artwork by the late artist, who struggled with extreme schizophrenia. That exhibit is on display in the gallery from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through March 24. The gallery is located on the second floor of the Dooley College Center on the Elms campus at 291 Springfield St.
Hughes is working with Kathleen Scoble, Ed.D., RN, dean of the School of Nursing, and Janet Lucier, MSN, RN, assistant clinical professor, as well as Michael Tillyer, director of Anchor House of Artists, to coordinate the colloquium. Anchor House of Artists is an organization based in Northampton whose mission is to support the creative careers of artists who live with serious mental illnesses, to fight social stigmas about mental illness, and to contribute to cultural enrichment in Western Massachusetts and beyond.
For this colloquium, Tillyer will be joined by Lucier and others to discuss creativity and mental illness in the healthcare system from the perspective of Burnett’s life and work. Attendees are invited to participate through questions and discussion.
Burnett produced prodigious amounts of art throughout her life, exhibited widely, and sold pieces into fine collections — and she accomplished all this in spite of the persecutory auditory hallucinations she battled from childhood. She died in 2015; in her last months, she was diagnosed with lung cancer, but continued the struggle to produce to the end.
“Despite Genevieve Mae Burnett’s illness, she was able to do what so very few can. This says nothing about art as a healing activity but speaks volumes about the power of art to challenge and transform society’s preconceptions of age, gender, illness, and creativity,” Tillyer said.
“These paintings are the work of a truly gifted artist — and, at the same time, they are the work of a person with severe schizophrenia. They are both, and cannot be reduced to one or the other — a testament that mental illness is a complex part of a greater whole person,” Hughes said. “I hope this exhibition provokes gallery visitors to examine their own ideas about mental illness and to feel a stronger connection to the threads, such as fear and aspiration, that link us all.”