Rockford Art Scene helps people with mental illness - – Rockford’s News Leader

Rockford Art Scene helps people with mental illness express themselves


For people with mental illnesses, getting their emotions out through art can be therapeutic. Some of those people in Rockford get a change to do just that, thanks to the semi-annual 'Art Scene,' a free event that offers local artists a chance to sell their work.

But at one of the event's galleries, the pieces on display are made entirely by people receiving services to treat mental illness. And the gallery is helping them do more than just make money.

Alisa Funnell is living with bipolar disorder. She finds her art seems to help her cope with the condition.

"Like this one, where I was working at was difficult because I felt like I didn't have a voice and I wasn't allowed to see what was going on. And so I was stumbling through my days."

Stephen Vrtol, a Mental Health Professional, teaches an art therapy class to clients at Stepping Stones of Rockford.  "It's a form of expression," he says. "It allows people to have a conversation with a part of themselves that isn't conscious."

Many of the pieces on display during art scene are made by his clients, like Alisa. She says not only does art help her understand herself, she hopes it will help others understand her too.

"When people read it then they see it and they realize what's going on. Because a lot of people with bipolar seem normal and go to work and look normal, but we have a hard time communicating," says Alisa.  

Of course, the extra money can't hurt.

"A lot of people have not been able to help jobs. You're in crisis, you're going through crisis and you can't work, " says Stephen.  

Art scene continues Saturday. This particular gallery is located at Stepping Stones on Main Street across from the Discovery Center.

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