‘Incredible Intensity of Just Being Human’ opens in Issaquah

A traveling art exhibit intended to examine the stigma toward mental illness opens in Issaquah Friday.

A traveling art exhibit intended to examine the stigma toward mental illness opens in Issaquah Friday.

“The Incredible Intensity of Just Being Human” features the mixed media work of 26 Pacific Northwest artists exploring the perspectives and obstacles of living with various mental illnesses, from anxiety to bipolar disorder, dissociation, depression and others.

Co-curator Kate Vrijmoet’s painting series “Non-ordinary Reality,” for example, uses water as a metaphor to express the unexpressed anxieties of individuals forced to mask their mental state among mainstream society.

“By talking about mental illness, we reduce the shame surrounding it and create a space where the prejudices and the fears we all have can give way to the compassion and the humanity we all have,” Vrijmoet said.

The art pieces are installed in “off kilter” locations in relation to the comfortable perspective of patrons in order to emphasize the different perspective of persons with mental illness, according to organizers.

Individual pieces in the exhibit will be split between the ArtEast Art Center on Front Street, Blakely Hall Community Center in the Highlands and Swedish Medical Center Issaquah in the Highlands.

“We believe the [exhibit] gives our community an invaluable opportunity to learn from those who experience mental illness — both personally and from a parent’s point of view,” ArtEast Director Carla Villar said.

On Friday, the exhibits will have a soft opening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Blakely Community Center at 2550 NE Park Drive. Mental health advocate Mickalya Risenmay, a 16-year-old attending Eastlake High School, will speak and 16-year-old musician Sam Foster will perform.

An opening reception for “Intensity” will be held one week later, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. April 29, at the Issaquah Senior Center at 75 Creek Way and the ArtEast Art Center on 95 Front Street. The reception will feature Ellen Forney, the author of graphic novel “Marbles,” Callahan, artist June Sekiguchi, her son Quin Breeland and Vrijmoet. The Issaquah School District’s Evergreen Orchestra String Quartet will perform music.

The exhibit and related mental health advocacy events will be held through June 15.