News Article Details

Art as an outlet

Star Beacon - 6/29/2019

Jun. 29--ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP -- Chris Raab knows the pain that comes from trauma, mental illness and substance abuse, but he also knows the healing that can come through creative expression.

Raab was one of many artists present Friday at "Drawn From Within: The Art of Recovery" the Community Counseling Center's annual art show. More than 40 pieces, from photographs to paintings, were on display by 25 local artists who have mental health or substance abuse issues.

Raab, owner of the non-profit Raabstractive, said childhood traumas led him toward substance abuse.

Art provides a method of allowing people who might be unable to articulate themselves properly get what's inside of them out, Raab said. It's been statistically proven that art can help those with mental illness or substance abuse disorders, he added.

"It gives them a venue to get that out so maybe they can better explain something visually then they can verbally," he said.

When Raab got sober he had time on his hands, and art was one way he filled that time. Then, as he got further into his sobriety, he found himself battling things he hadn't even been aware he was battling, and art helped him work through it and express it.

"I think art personally saved my life," Raab said.

Matt Butler, clinical supervisor at the Community Counseling Center, said the idea of the annual show is to gather people together who have something to say about mental illness, substance abuse disorders and any associated stigmas.

There can be a variety of ways people in recovery can release their thoughts, Butler said, with visual art being just one. Recovery is also reliant on getting involved in something and staying active.

"For some people that's music and for others it's religion, but the art shows a lot of self expression of their journey," he said.

Artist Ryan Tankersley said art was a way to cope with depression and the loss of numerous high school classmates to suicide. Tankersley was a student at Mentor High School when there were six student suicides within a couple of years.

For a brief time, Tankersley said he dabbled in drug use, but he was able to stop on his own. Part of his motivation for quitting was witnessing friends overdose and die.

"I just started drawing because it was a way to slow my brain down and cognitively work through what I was going through," he said.

James Conn, whose wife, Rachel, is a dual therapist at the Community Counseling Center, is not mentally ill or addicted to drugs. However, his art was on display and James Conn said he's drawn inspiration in his work from the many friends and family he has witnessed facing such issues.

"Art in general is there to make you feel something," he said. "It can make you feel happy, it can make you feel sad, it can make you feel empowered. My hope is that art will make people feel hope."

Rachel Conn said art has been a way for her to help find connections with and relate to clients.

"Sometimes it's a good talking point for people," she said. "They'll bring in some of their work and we can talk about it."

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(c)2019 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio)

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