NEWARK — Vicki Marvin has had a storied past with mental illness and her road to recovery has been paved with the art she’s created throughout the years.
Marvin illustrated mental recovery as an orchestra in a piece now on display for Mental Health and Recovery for Licking and Knox Counties’ ART of Recovery.
The ART of Recovery is an annual event, spanning September and October. The gallery was displayed in Knox County last month and came to Licking County for October. The works can be seen in the cafeteria at Licking Memorial Hospital.
Marvin explained her three-dimensional piece, which staged dolls in varying phases of definition and function.
“The people in the back (of the orchestra) are less defined, trying to find out who they are,” Marvin said. “Each of them are their own person, no matter how broken they are and they’re working to find themselves and their talent.”
As they recover, the figures move down into the main body of the orchestra, where they can play and perform with the rest of the musicians to display their talents. But even as they perform, there is one more position for them to reach: the conductor’s role.
“The conductor stands at the front of the orchestra, his back to the audience,” Marvin explained. He stands with his back to the audience, or the rest of the world, shielding those with mental illness and those recovering from the world’s stigma.
“At the end of the performance, he can take his bow and say, ‘Look what we accomplished. Look at what we’re worth,’ to the world,” she said.
Art is a progressive way to help those with mental illness recover. Shari Johnston, who works with the Compeer group and coordinates the Girls in Progress program with Mental Health America of Licking County, has firsthand experience with art’s healing power.
“Growing up, my mother was mentally ill, and that really affected me,” Johnston said. “I would turn to art as a way to cope with her mental state.”
Johnston used art throughout life, and as an adult pursued a degree in art therapy. When she visits Licking County schools, Johnston uses art as a vehicle to engage students.
She also incorporates art in support groups.
Growing up, Marvin was severely disassociative and secluded herself from society, because of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“My parents were great people,” she said. “They really tried to raise me right. But some people turn to drugs or alcohol to get them through life. I kind of just went back inside my own head.”
Marvin’s seclusion eventually lead to neurological amnesia, which she battled for 20 years.
“I worked to try and remember my life,” Marvin said. “I had to catalog every dream and flashback, anything that might help me remember who I am. I put anything useful on my closet door, and that’s really where art came in and helped me.”
Donna Gibson echoed how useful art is for the groups that she leads for Mental Health America.
“The agency’s outreach and collaboration with local groups is astonishing,” she said.
Gibson added that art has been a great tool for some of her members, including someone from the jail who created a sympathy card for a cancer patient.
On Oct. 15, Mental Health and Recovery presented the Cyril G. Ransopher Award to Gibson for her work with her Bridges Out of Poverty group and Bobby Persinger for his work with the members of the Youth Leadership Council.
Having her art displayed has given Marvin confidence in her talent, enough to let her join the International Doll Makers Association.
“I’m planning on continuing to make these kinds of displays,” she said. “I have one planned in support of breast cancer survivors coming in March.”
Found in The Newark Advocate October 20, 2015