Arts & Mental Health Zine Debuts

The inaugural issue of Perch features the silhouette of a curious bird atop a gable or mountain peak. It seems to be resting, reconnoitering, and planning its next journey—an apt metaphor for New Haven’s newest magazine.

Perch is published by researchers associated with the Parachute Factory gallery at Erector Square. For years, they have been integrating art into the treatment of people with addiction and mental illness. The new magazine aims to continue that work by creating a space for people to share their perspectives on the journey to wellness.

The researchers at Yale’s Program for Recovery and Community Health (PRCH—pronounce it “perch”) have added to their periodic art exhibitions a biannual journal of literature and visual art that clusters around issues of mental health.

A party to celebrate the publication of the inaugural issue of Perch drew a festive crowd to the Parachute Factory last week.

PRCH has operated the gallery for five years. It features regular art exhibitions on themes relevant to people in mental health care.

Now a magazine has been born. It’s available (or soon will be) at the PRCH website and in limited quantity in print.

“We felt there was a need for a journal to reflect our mission of working in solidarity with people living with mental illness and to open up paths to their full participation in society,” said Ashley Clayton, the journal’s visual art’s editor.

The contributors to the journal are those who are clients in a mental health setting, providers, or simply those who are writing poetry or creating images that speak to relevant issues.

“We don’t want to limit the voices,” said Dr. Michael Rowe, a PRCH sociologist and one of the journal’s founders.

One of the contributors to the inaugural issue is Christine Beck (pictured), who retired in 2009 from 20 years as head of the paralegal training program at the University of Hartford.

“I’m a lawyer in recovery,” she said as she prepared to read her poem “The Bargain” to the assembled crowd.

She launched a second career and recently earned an MFA from Southern Connecticut State University, with a deep sense that she wanted to write about the emotional issues of homeless people and those struggling with mental illness.

When she heard about Perch, she realized it was a perfect outlet for her work, she said.

Artist Noelle Tweedie called the experience of having her work both in the zine and on the wall of the gallery “surreal.”

Although she’s been drawing since childhood, this is the first time the 16-year old Pomperaug High School (Southbury) junior has had work “out in the world,” she said.

Her work doesn’t relate directly to issues of mental health but said when she grows up she wants to be an artist, and possibly an art therapist.

The journal, sumptuously designed by Marilyn de Guehery, contains visual art and poetry, and frank memoirs of people living with mental illness.

Claire Bien’s haunting “If You Start to Get Scared, Stop Listening” engages from its first line: “In the beginning, the symptoms of my illness were quite simple: I heard voices.”


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posted by: teleny on May 24, 2013  11:00am

Remember the Elm City Echo? The magazine by homeless people that was supposed to give them an outlet/income stream? Remember Echo #2? That’s because there was no #2, the grad student involved finished school and moved on. Kudos if it lasts, but as a mental health consumer, I’m kind of tired of hearing how our art and writing is getting other people careers while we’re still treated like the neighbor’s 4-year-old kid, who thinks that tying a cloth around her waist and spinning makes her a ballet dancer.

“Bravissima, Shirley! Now take your flower and let the grownups drink their gin and tonics.”

OK, nice they’re being heard, but it’s not as if this is the only way to get attention these days: Deviant Art is a website that deals with all kinds of art, not just odd art. There are many other ways to get a web presence, too. If they were being serious about this, the focus wouldn’t be an in-house zine, but art careers through New Media which would remove the label of “art made by s mental patient” and substitute “made by a folk artist with an interesting mind”.

Bears thinking about, no?

Also, one thought: I’ve heard that voices in your head only turn threatening and scary when you try to block them out. Not listening is the worst thing you can do.