Detroit Art Series Recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and “Looking for the Light,” an art exhibit and series of events dedicated to destigmatizing mental illness, opens Friday in downtown Detroit. .

The series runs through the end of the month, with gatherings around art, counseling and education at multiple venues across Detroit.

The initiative is inspired by the paintings and advocacy of the late artist Michael Francis Miller. Mixed works by more than 40 other artists will also be exhibited.

Work by Emilia Nawrocki.

“Mental health affects us all. We want to shift awareness to eliminate stigma, shine a light on helpful resources, and help people feel like they’re not alone,” said co-creator Gretchen Gonzales Davidson, who reflected to the series with Dan John Miller, brother of Michael Francis Miller, to honor his works and develop an impactful way to engage the community.

“Looking for the Light” will also feature a Michigan Humane Society panel focused on the mental health benefits of companion animals; the performance art of Biba Bell; music by Seedsmen to the World and Dan John Miller; fundraising for downtown shopping; meditation sessions with Afro Moone and Detroit Opera, and a caregiver panel at BasBlue featuring Miller and Rabbi Daniel Syme, a local religious leader and suicide prevention advocate.

Both Miller and Syme have lost brothers to mental illness.

Michael Francis Miller.

Michael Francis Miller, who died by suicide in 2001, was a painter, poet and founding member of the Detroit-based psychobilly band Goober & the Peas. After being diagnosed with schizo-effective disorder (bipolar and schizophrenia), he became an advocate for people struggling with mental health issues.

“After moving my 90-year-old mother in with me following the death of my stepfather, my family was faced with what to do with my late brother Michael’s paintings,” Dan John Miller said. “We discussed selling them at the estate sale, but we wanted to do something more respectful of him and his work.

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