Gallery’s art helps healing

HUDSON—It’s where mental health and/or substance abuse recovery information and resources unite with creativity.

This place is a more than a dream, in fact the first fundraising exhibition presented by the Mental Health Awareness and Creative Arts Gallery opens at Camphill Solaris, 360 Warren Street, Saturday, February 16 from 4 to 6 p.m.

The exhibition features six artists who are in recovery from mental health and/or substance abuse problems. Attached to each artist’s display will be a brief bio-narrative of their recovery story.

One of the artist’s statements reads:

I have suffered from OCD, anxiety, and depression for most of my 47 years. In 2011, after becoming deaf in right ear and years in a tumultuous relationship, I sought professional help. They’ve helped me with different approaches and coping skills toward life. In 2014, I moved to Catskill from downstate NY. For the first time in my life, I took up Art. Water St. Studio in Catskill has helped me grow from drawing stick figures to painting abstractly in acrylics, watercolors, fabric mediums, and mixed media. Art has been the best therapy for me.”

The Pill mandala by Liz Ortiz

Also at the exhibition will be a table staffed by a person in recovery and stocked with pamphlets and other educational and resource information for those seeking recovery support.

The idea for the combination gallery/mental health and substance abuse recovery resource came from Brian Belt, 53, of Hudson, a graduate of the Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS) program offered through the Mental Health Association of Columbia–Greene Counties, Inc. He went on to teach mental health recovery-related classes he designed and developed as a volunteer. He is now a certified peer specialist in the mental health field, is qualified to teach a wide-range of mental health topics and for seven years has run a peer support group once a week at the Columbia Memorial Hospital Psychiatric Unit to encourage patients there to try out the PROS program that helped him reach his current level of advanced recovery.

Mr. Belt also creates digital artwork that will be among those showcased at the initial gallery event along with a brief bio-narrative about his own recovery story from schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder, and substance abuse disorder.

Mr. Belt’s journey from the darkness of mental illness to the light of recovery was the subject of an August 2013 story in The Columbia Paper, “Once ill, now he helps others recover.”

Mr. Belt said by phone this week that he got the idea for the Mental Health Awareness and Creative Arts Gallery after seeing an exhibit suggested to him by someone associated with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Columbia County.

When he reflected on all the creative people he knows, all the mental health service consumers and providers and community resources he has connected with throughout his recovery process and outreach efforts over the past nine years, he thought there must be some way to combine them all.

And the place should be somewhere on Warren Street, which he describes as “a stunning location both aesthetically and culturally.”

Mr. Belt said by email that Warren Street is home to restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, clothing stores, and “amenities that attract not only wealthy weekend tourists but people of all types who enjoy the relaxed, casual yet elegant environment.”

Over the past several months Mr. Belt has assembled artists and more than 20 volunteers to help him put together an initial fundraising exhibition.

The Mental Health Awareness and Creative Arts Gallery now has corporation status and is in the process of filing for 501c3 nonprofit status. Its mission is “To assist those with mental health and/or substance abuse problems to improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential by providing community resource information that can help with recovery efforts. As well, to create solidarity within the community so that channels of loving communication can manifest among people of all types by means of public sharing of creative work by those individuals in recovery from mental health and/or substance abuse problems.”

By getting mental health and substance abuse problems in the forefront, we can normalize how the community thinks about mental illness and snuff out the stigma,” he said.

Participants will be living examples that recovery is possible no matter how serious the mental health diagnosis and/or substance abuse problem they may have,” he said, adding that spotlighting “these individuals will show that hope for recovery exists for anyone whether they suffer with serious mental health and/or substance abuse problems or they are personally involved with someone who does. It will let the participants feel they are special and worthy human beings deserving of community respect and love.”

The project goal is to gather enough funds to open its own space, said Mr. Belt. “Once complete, our own gallery center will act as a space for consumers of mental health and/or substance abuse services who are in recovery to showcase their art, writing and creative skills to the public and provide an informational base for people affected by mental health and/or substance abuse problems to give them hope, guidance, compassion and potential solutions for helping themselves or loved ones to take steps towards recovery-based endeavors.”

Donations to the Mental Health Awareness and Creative Arts Gallery may be made by check at the opening exhibition or by PayPal on the Facebook page listed below.

To learn more about the Mental Health Awareness and Creative Arts Gallery visit:

To contact Diane Valden email

Green Lady by Chris Lannis

Hut overlooking the mountain scape by Sean Springer


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