October 23, 2017

Art project paints mental health in a new light

By Samantha Kizner ‘19, Staff Writer

Stereotypes and stigmas surround nearly everything in society. However, the stigma around mental health is more prominent than many other stereotypes. Mental health issues are more common than most would expect, and in order for it to be dealt with in a proper and respectful manner stereotypes must be broken. Matthew Tom ’16 and Alexa Marcasciano ’16 are working together to end these stereotypes.

Tom and Marcasciano will be doing so through their senior project, which they are both contributing to in unique ways. Tom creates visual art pieces, whereas Marcasciano writes poems. Both of their contributions are inspired by 15 anonymous responses to questions about mental health. While the art is unique to their project, the responses are not. “Our project is a continuation of a project I did with the Wellesley Interact Club,” Tom said.

Tom, along with his friend Teddy Sevilla ’16, who is not a part of the senior project, left boxes around Newton Wellesley Hospital patient rooms with questions regarding mental health attached. Now, Marcasciano and Tom are utilizing these responses to help break the stigma of mental health by adding the new element of art. “We hope that our works will connect to people and make them think about mental health differently,” Marcasciano said.

Tom and Marcasciano split up the responses evenly, and made sure that each response had a least one poem or piece of art with it. Although, they also took their own feelings towards the responses into consideration as well. “We split them based on what we individually felt most inspired by, and by what responses we thought would work better in words or translated into art,” Marcasciano said.

However, it wasn’t as simple as just splitting up the responses and getting right to work. Marcasciano and Tom had to be careful that what they created wasn’t going to be offensive, but also had to avoid being cliche about the touchy subject. “One challenge has been trying to explore mental health without being cliche or stereotypical. I try as much as I can to craft a unique story in my poems,” Marcasciano said.

Due to the touchiness of mental health, and the caution most people take in discussing it, trying to break its stereotypes is difficult. Tom, who is currently enrolled in drawing and painting intensive and metals intensive, thought art was the perfect approach due to his experience with it. Also, art provides an ease that is often absent when discussing mental health. “We wanted to find a way to talk about mental health in a way that is more accessible and less intimidating than talking about the difficult subject, and we thought that art would be a great way to do so,” Tom said.

Tom and Marcasciano have put much work into their project, both due to passion for their work and the public destination of the project. Once the poems and artwork have been completed, they will be displayed in Newton Wellesley hospital.

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