Sacred Spaces | Cultivating Hope Project Update
Here is a little bit of background behind my paintings and this project. I call my paintings Sacred Spaces because they are imagined environments of escape from reality. In the beginning these spaces were metaphors to where I imagined going if I committed suicide. After years of therapy I realized that the meaning behind my paintings didn’t have to be dark, so I began to see them as spaces of reprieve not only for me but for others as well. I intend to nurture a sense of hope with my paintings through bright colors and inviting atmospheres.
In February of 2020 I had plans for this project to be in the form of an exhibition of my paintings that would be installed in a psychiatric treatment facility, but because of COVID I have had to re-think and re-develop my idea. Over the last year I have been researching and practicing the act of earthing (also known as grounding), which refers to contact with the Earth’s surface electrons by walking barefoot outdoors. In the warmer months I gardened a lot and spent time outdoors connecting to nature.
Since then, plans have morphed and changed into an outdoor installation at the Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park, which is in Kansas City, Missouri. As park visitors walk their lush nature trails, I want them to see this installation and take a moment to pause. The purpose of my installation is to remind people to stop, breathe, and reconnect with nature.
The installation will be a largescale mural installed into the ground at the Lakeside Nature Center’s upper loop gravel trail. While I visited, I was able to walk the trail with the Director of the Nature Center as she pointed out potential spots for the installation.
I decided on a shady spot nestled into some trees and bushes. This was one of the only open spots with a bench nearby, which I thought would be a great place for walkers and hikers to sit and be able to take a moment of rest in front of my mural. As they’re surrounded by nature, I want to invoke peace and solitude through my painting. It’s a moment of their day where they can rest, breathe, and reflect as they connect to the space around them.
I have hired Kevin from Smiley Fine Art to build the panels for the installation, which should be completed by mid-March. Kevin is building these wooden panels to include earth anchors on the bottom so we can literally ground them into the earth. Each panel is 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide. One of the challenges we may face with installation is the fact that the Lakeside Nature Center sits on ground that is rich with limestone which may be an issue, but we will solve that when we get there!
The panels arrived on March 1st and are ready to gesso and paint! Between March and June I will be applying for grants, such as the Inspiration Grant, and finding funds for the project. March through June will also be my time to paint the canvases and weatherproof them. I hope to install at the Lakeside Nature Center in July. After that I just need to spread the word for people to come see it! The installation will most likely only be up for four weeks.
To stay updated on my installation project you can follow me on Facebook or Instagram @amaranthineartist.
This project, Sacred Spaces: Cultivating Hope, promotes community wellness, advocates for mental health, and makes art accessible to all. The project consists of an exterior mural painted on four vertical wooden panels anchored into the ground in an outdoor garden space. This space will give the community a chance to come together in nature and find peace and solace in a time of crisis. In 2014, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression disorders. Through years of therapy, I began using painting as a tool to cope. I call my paintings Sacred Spaces because they are imagined environments that I created for myself to have a place of escape. These spaces, derived from my thoughts and emotions, became sacred because painting them and reflecting on them was a coping mechanism for my own struggles with anxiety and depression.
When I first began creating these paintings, I was imagining them as a portal to the afterlife. If I ended my life then and there, those spaces were where I wanted to go. There is no pain and no trauma in these spaces, only healing and hope. As I worked through my anxieties, these Sacred Spaces led me to have a much brighter outlook on life. The paintings themselves took on lighter colors. They became places of exploration and new discovery.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, I began to focus more on my mental health and inner peace, as many others did. Many did so out of necessity; as the pandemic continues, the anxiety and depression rates in the American population are rising. One thing I turned to was gardening. The act of grounding and earthing yourself has so many healing benefits for your mind and body. Sacred Spaces: Cultivating Hope mirrors that experience, providing a physical garden space not only full of nature, but also larger than life. In that painted botanical space, people will be enveloped in safety and given the space to reflect inward and seek solace.
For this project I am seeking funding for painting supplies (which includes house paint, drop cloths, brushes, sealants, etc.), transportation of materials, and installation time. Sacred Spaces: Cultivating Hope will connect people to themselves and their community in a time when that connection is especially needed. We simply cannot get through this pandemic or a national mental health crisis individually. Not only do I want my work to combat mental illness and promote mental health, but also create a space to nurture community wellness as a whole.
Learning How To Deal With Change...
I have taken a step back over the last two and a half months to reassess my project and its goals. As much as I wanted to continue with the path of displaying artwork in mental health facilities/hospitals, with the global pandemic now is just not the right time. America is not only dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also fighting against racial injustice and inequality which could also be classified as a national pandemic. With these two major events in the nation anxiety, depression, and suicide rates throughout the United States has skyrocketed, putting us on the verge of a national mental health crisis.
I have decided to re-frame this project to be more focused on local businesses instead of facilities right now. Hopefully in the future I will be able to come back to displaying art in mental health facilities/ hospitals, just not at this moment in time. This re-framed project involves a collection of murals that inspires change in the way society thinks about mental illness and re-wiring our brains to cope with a global pandemic. I call my paintings Sacred Spaces because they are imagined environments that I initially created for myself to have a place of escape. These Spaces became sacred to me because painting them and reflecting in them acted as therapy for my own struggles with anxiety and depression. These Spaces saved my life and the goal of this project is to provide the same sense of hope to others. As the Pandemic continues, the anxiety and depression rates in the American population are rising. Because of COVID-19 many businesses were forced to close their doors and are now struggling to bring customers back as they begin to reopen.
For this project I will need to secure funding for painting supplies (which includes paint, drop cloths, brushes, etc.), transportation of materials, and actual installation time which will hopefully come in the form of an art grant. My hope is that the murals will generate positive publicity for the businesses that I paint them in. Not only do I want my work to speak to mental health but I want to use my work as a tool to promote community wellness. We simply cannot get through this Pandemic or a national mental health crisis individually so we all need to work together to support each other. That support starts in each community and then branches outward from there. The businesses that will house the murals will not have to contribute financially to my murals or my time. By the end of this year I should be ready to start painting on walls!
As an artist, it has been tough lately. As I have said many times now, I am so thankful to still have my job with the Arts Council of Johnson County. My husband and I would definitely be struggling without it. I am fortunate enough to still be making a steady income which advocating for the arts in Johnson County, Kansas. Our two-person team (the Executive Director and myself, the Administrative Assistant) are working really hard to continue to support the arts through the COVID-19 Pandemic. We are connecting artists and arts organizations to resources and working to help them build a plan of recovery now that businesses are scheduled to open back up across the nation.
Working with the ACJC has absolutely opened my eyes wider to the world of art advocacy. I feel more strongly about my work of advocating for mental health support through the arts and that it can make a difference. I feel more connected to the arts than I have in my two and a half years of living here. I definitely feel like I'm doing something worthwhile (and worth getting an art degree for). The hardest thing over the last few years has been justifying why I got an art degree and now I feel like I don't have to.
My Sacred Spaces: Cultivating Hope project is still moving along. I had to extend my timeline and business plan because of the pandemic, but I'm making good progress! Recently I was invited to submit my artwork to an art consultant's platform. This consultant finds artwork to furnish new health facilities and nursing homes. Right now I am working on selling print reproductions to fund my project. All prints on my website are still half off.
I have also started a Pay What You Want sale on social media for Mental Health Awareness Month (which is May). I upload a new painting every day and whoever is the first person to message me with interest to buy gets the painting. The point of the sale is that they can pay what they want for the piece and that money goes into my fund for my SS:CH project.
On May 15th from 6-9pm Arts KC and KC Crew are hosting a Friday Night Arts event on Zoom to promote six local artists and their practice. I will be one of the six artists! Each artist gets 30 minutes to talk about themselves and their art to potential patrons and supporters. Tickets are $10 a person and you can also donate directly to the artists during the Zoom event. Here is the link to buy tickets: https://kccrew.com/events/friday-night-arts/
The event is to help support artists who aren't currently able to make an income from their artwork because of COVID-19 and to also allow artists to share about themselves and their work.
We are all doing what we can and hopefully we can get back out there and continue furthering our practices!
These last few weeks have been tough for a lot of people. Artists have lost their sources of income, people are losing their jobs or being furloughed. Being stuck in isolation has done a number on my mental health. I can feel myself slipping back into depression and I'm doing everything I can to prevent that. I know people out there are doing their best to help society right now. I see more fundraisers for people in need, donating to emergency shelters, neighbors uplifting each other, healthcare employees working around the clock to ensure our safety.
With everything that is going on, I still believe my project Sacred Spaces: Cultivating Hope has a place in the world. I think now more than ever people need something positive and a sense of hope. I have been reassessing my timeline for this project and have decided to make a few adjustments. Ultimately, I am just stretching the timeline. Everything that I have planned to happen will still happen, just over a longer period of time.
I'm excited to announce that I've been accepted into the Artist INC Advance program through Mid America Arts Alliance (headquartered in Kansas City, MO). I recently went through their 8 week Artist INC program in the spring of 2019. We met once a week and learned how to network, promote ourselves and our art, market, create a personal business/brand, and much more!
This time the program is a year long, ending in February of 2020. It is comprised of 20 artists who have gone through the Artist INC program over the last 10(ish) years. Each of us applied with a grant proposal that was then accepted into the Advance program. Next February, the 20 artists will present our project proposal and compete to win three different grants of $1,000 each!
My project, titled Sacred Spaces: Cultivating Hope, involves a body of work that inspires change in the way society thinks about mental illness. I would like to create ten 36”x48” paintings to permanently install in a psychiatric treatment institution/facility. I call my paintings Sacred Spaces because they are imagined environments that I created for myself to have a place of escape. They became sacred to me because painting them and reflecting in them helped my anxiety and depression. I’ve struggled previously with suicidal thoughts and am still struggling with depression and needed a way to cope with the outside world. Having these spaces to journey into and reflect in is helping me through my struggles. I would like my Sacred Spaces to help other people who also struggle to have the same sense of hope that I did. Creating these spaces gives people the opportunity to self-reflect and discover new things.
This project will have three phases to it. Phase one is the production of ten paintings, set to be done in January of 2021. Phase two will be to have a public exhibition showcasing these paintings along with writings, poems, and quotes I've gathered from survivors of suicide attempts, self-harm, eating disorders, depression, and more. Phase three will then be to permanently install the paintings at a Psychiatric Treatment Facility dedicated to helping people recover from the trauma of mental disorders.
Things I will need support with during the month of March: