Mental health highlighted

Artwork along with tales of the therapeutic power of expressing creativity will be on display at St Luke’s Uniting Church during its fourth annual arts festival.

Opening tomorrow, Views from the Edge is a collection of almost 50 pieces, including a variety of paintings, drawings, sculpture and digital media, with artwork appearing alongside the artists’ written reflections.

Festival convener Reverend Philip Liebelt said while the open exhibition did not call for entrants to have any mental health issues, a lot of the paintings came from people who had struggled in some way.

“Some people feel this is a safe place to share their work and they don’t always feel that way with other exhibitions,” Mr Liebelt said.

“Clearly it is encouraging people and it doesn’t effect the quality of the artwork.”

Mr Liebelt said the written piece that accompanied the artwork was the artist’s personal reflection on how expressing themselves creatively has helped them through their journey.

“For example we have an under 18 section and this year have been successful in getting the schools involved,” Mr Liebelt.

“One year 12 student was really keen to link his art to mental health and has written the longest reflection, almost a mini-essay about his struggles.”

Mr Liebelt said all of the entrants were from Gippsland except one, whose story typified the journeys of many of the artists.

“I was in the United States in Seattle where I met a man known as Dr Bob, who has been homeless for 19 years,” Mr Liebelt said.

“He pulled a painting out of his backpack, which I bought from him. He’d been carrying it around for who knows how long.

“It’s a very worn-looking piece, which reflects what his life has been like.”

The exhibition will run alongside a community art space, storytelling, wandering artists and live music from local bands.

“Every year we ask anyone who comes in, to contribute to a community art piece, which was an idea from art therapist Maya Fraser,” Mr Liebelt said.

“Last year visitors made leaves out of clay, with messages on them and we baked them.

“We’ll hang the leaves on the bare-looking tree here and also get visitors to make fruit and flowers to place on there immediately.”

The arts festival runs from Friday to Sunday to celebrate Mental Health Week from 6 to 12 October, which aims to activate, educate and engage Victorians about mental health through interactive events.