Collaboration results in art for county

Mosaic created by Open Minds Open Doors program
by: submitted photo A mosaic is presented to Cindy Becker at a county commissioners meeting that was the result of a collaborative effort that involved the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Clackamas County.

When the Sandy Mountain Festival Committee awarded a $500 grant to the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Clackamas County to start an open art studio for persons with mental health disorders, the fledgling group knew that they wanted to do something impactful.

They knew just what they wanted to do after learning about Clackamas County's Open Minds Open Doors campaign to fight the stigma and discrimination that many people with mental illnesses experience.

The first step was to name the group after the campaign and The Open Minds Art Studio was born. But they wanted more. They wanted something that would be a permanent example of what can be created when people come together with a common goal, something that could be shared with the greater community.

After much reflection, they decided on creating a large mosaic representing the Open Minds Open Doors campaign, using the logo developed by the county as a starting point and adding their own imaginations and creative abilities.

A young man from another nonprofit serving Clackamas County, Youth M.O.V.E. found out about the project and lent a hand. Family members helped out with making the frame and grouting the project. More than 16 people worked on the project, each adding a little bit of their own personality and a piece of the dream for a better future for the 22,000 people in Clackamas County who suffer with a severe mental illness.

Michele Veenker, NAMI of Clackamas County's executive director, said the mosaic was 'created by people with a mental health diagnosis and those who love them.' Veenker herself lives with her daughter who wa s diagnosed with bipolar disorder, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

On Dec. 8 the mosaic was unveiled at the Clackamas County commissioners meeting. Veenker credited the leadership of Cindy Becker, director of Human Services for Clackamas County, and desire to reduce stigma and discrimination felt by this very vulnerable population that the Open Minds Open Doors Campaign was born.

NAMI-CC's Open Minds Art Studio participants hope the piece will provide an opportunity for introspection to those who view it and challenge the stereotype of mental illness. Participants hope to see this through an even larger use of the piece, perhaps as part of a traveling show on mental health that can be shown and accessed by the community.

The presentation was an extension of more than 30 years of collaboration and support between NAMI of Clackamas County and Clackamas County government.

Past collaborations have included the Teen Screen Program and the development of housing for persons with a mental health disorder.