Mental illness can create beauty

ISSUE Magazine: October 2012

When Byron Hughes became the new Program Coordinator for the Nick Nides Self-Help Haven, “Art Instructor” was probably not something that he thought would be one of his job duties. It turned out to be a large part of what he does each week.

The Nick Nides Self Help Haven (a.k.a. The Beaumont Hope Center) is a non-profit gathering place and support center for people with mental health diagnoses. The organization is located on the South Campus of the Spindletop Center in Beaumont and is run by Spindletop clients.

Now, for the third year in a row, the members of the Haven will put their creativity on display in an art exhibition called “A Beautiful Mind.” The exhibit and silent auction with hors d’oeuvres and wine, scheduled for 2-4 p.m., Oct 28 at The Art Studio, is free and open to the public.

Recreational activities at the Haven did not include artwork until 2010, when members of Woodcrest United Methodist Church in Lumberton decided to start informal art classes for those Haven members who wanted them. The classes were a huge success, and when the original teacher, retired educator Betty Iles, had to miss several classes, the members took matters into their own hands.

“Next thing we knew, there were people painting several days a week, blowing through as many art supplies as people could buy,” said Janna Fulbright, public relations for Spindletop. “From there, it just seemed logical to do an art exhibition.”

Now, Hughes and other Haven members oversee art classes and are working very, very hard to put on a professional exhibit.

“The members who do art really seem to love it,” said Hughes.

The 2011 exhibition was a success, and members used part of the funds they raised to take field trips and to purchase more art supplies.

“A Beautiful Mind 2012” will feature approximately 200 pieces, including acrylics on canvas and works on paper. Each will showcase the free expression of the Haven members.

“When I first went to look at their works, I was so naïve,” said Fulbright. “I thought, ‘Mental illness … these works are going to be so dark.’ Boy, was I wrong! Flowers, houses, non-objective pieces, bright colors … these are pieces that speak to hope more than anything, and I really enjoy the work.”

In addition to the support of the art patrons who purchased works in years past, “A Beautiful Mind 2012” got a much-needed boost in the form of a grant from Entergy Texas.

“I’m sure the Haven members are thrilled that Entergy thought that their exhibit was a worthwhile cause,” said Fulbright. “Entergy’s support lends a sense of legitimacy and community support to the members’ hard work. The Haven members have worked so diligently — some even came back from homelessness to arrive at a place where they can put their innermost thoughts on display for the public to see. That’s a brave thing for these artists to do, and it’s wonderful that Entergy supports them in their efforts.”

TASI is located at 720 Franklin in Beaumont. For more information, call Spindletop at 409-651-9280.