2018-04-11 / Features

How We Create & How We Cope: Art & Mental Illness

“How We Create & How We Cope: Intersections Of Art & Mental Health/Mental Illness” is another angle of Little Theatre’s “Rough Draft”—vibrantly pieced together from a group of artists and performers viscerally experiencing their personal realities of mental health. Hosted and curated by Queens native and poet-curator Audrey Dimola, “How We Create & How We Cope” is an open and honest evening of multidisciplinary performance and presentations about the too-often stigmatized topic of mental illness, particularly in connection to creativity as an outlet, outcome, or survival mechanism.

Throughout our cultural history, many of the legendary artists we know today, from painter Vincent Van Gogh to writer Virginia Woolf, grappled in this way. Yet it becomes a passing line in their bio, a tragic footnote—and their brilliant work remains. In the present day, a rapidly increasing number of individuals of all ages are struggling in similar fashion, frequently in silence and shame, due to overwhelming fears regarding judgment, loss of job security and social status, and lack of access to help, explained Dimola.

Some of the issues Dimola explored in putting together this performance are: “How much of how we suffer makes us who we are and results in the art we create? How much of these feelings are the natural experience of the artist, and when is it time to seek help? What do those forms of help look like?”

A variety of local artists will present their stories, poetry, dance, and more, in addition to a sharing of resources and experiences on these topics. “All are welcome—this is a safe space,” Dimola said.

“How We Create & How We Cope” is being held at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Long Island City on April 15, from 5-7 pm in their 200- seat Little Theatre, as part of their Rough Draft Festival 2018.

Performers include Steven Licardi, Lucy Torres, Rich Alexandro, Lynne DeSilva- Johnson, Danny Matos, Lauren Hale Biniaris, Alex Tatis, Keys Will, Dina Gregory, Deborah Emin, and Bryan Bruner.

Dimola noted, “In addition to exploring these artistic overlaps and connections, my aim for organizing this show is to put local, real world stories, faces, and expressions to oft-stigmatized ideas about mental illness—sharing resources and empathy, recognizing and validating each other’s journeys, and holding space for each other in a safe and supportive way. In conjunction with the show, I would love to invite viewers, readers, and listeners the opportunity to release their own mental health stories in solidarity with myself and the performers by using the hashtag #awarenessisempathy on social media.”

Celebrated for her dynamic presence on stage and on the page, Audrey Dimola is a poet, performer, curator, local arts advocate, community organizer, and lifelong artist. She is also Director of Public Programs at her beloved Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City.

Dimola is the author of two poetry & prose collections, “Decisions We Make While We Dream” (2012) and “TRAVERSALS” (2014), and the forthcoming “WILDLIGHT,” and is creator of the Compass Project, a guerrilla poetry sticker initiative that has traveled across the globe spreading positivity.

She has been featured on NY1 TV, Queens Public TV and at Queens Library, Bowery Poetry Club, Brooklyn Museum, and Flushing Town Hall, among others throughout the city.

In addition to planning and executing a diverse range of programs including music, dance, yoga, and kayaking at Socrates, while collaborating with over 50 partners, including the Metropolitan Opera and Ballet Folklorico Mexicano, Dimola speaks at conferences, festivals, and schools from elementary to college; holds and facilitates safe space for ceremony and the arts; and continues to actively perform and curate independently.

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