Arts in Mind is an original series of conversations with leading figures in the literary, visual, multimedia, and performing arts whose work touches on mental health issues. Co-curator of the series and author of Lincoln’s Melancholy, Joshua Wolf Shenk says:
The fundamental connection between human suffering and creative expression is one of the most enduring, and elusive, of human stories. It’s not just that so much piercing and original art springs from minds afflicted with mental illness, but that the arts lend dignity and humanity to the struggles and triumphs of people whose lives are full of hurt. Arts in Mind will be a centerpiece for exploring these connections — and, we hope, the centerpiece of a wide-ranging community that has long been exploring the arts and mental health.
Created by The Austen Riggs Center in collaboration with the Sandor Ferenczi Center at the New School for Social Research, the Art in Mind series kicks off on September 29, with a program entitled Elegies for Our Lost Asylums: a discussion on the restorative use of architecture, space and art, with Christopher Payne and Anna Schuleit.
Christopher Payne’s photography has artfully documented America’s vanishing architecture and industrial landscape. His new book, Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals (with an essay by Oliver Sacks) follows a 7-year exploration of America’s vast and largely abandoned state mental institutions. The New York Times called Asylum one of the best art books of 2009 and Dwell called it “astoundingly beautiful work on a subject that rarely gets the attention.” Trained as an architect, Payne is a graduate of Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Anna Schuleit’s early, large-scale installation projects revolved around psychiatric institutions: “Habeas Corpus” used the hallways and rooms of the abandoned Northampton State Hospital like the insides of an instrument for a performance of J.S. Bach’s Magnificat. “Bloom” consisted of 28,000 potted, blooming flowers throughout four floors of the at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. Art Forum recently named “Bloom” one of the 10 outstanding art works in history. A 2006 MacArthur Fellow, Schuleit was trained at the Rhode Island School of Design.
(Elegies for Our Lost Asylums, September 29, at 8 p.m., at Tishman Auditorium, The New School, 55 West 13th Street, New York. Free; no tickets or reservations require)
The serie continues on October 20, with filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig, who will screen his award-winning film, The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Then, on Monday, November 22, Arts in Mind will feature acclaimed memoirist and poet Mary Karr.
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