When Kim Vose Jones was hired to be the curator of the Yellow Box Gallery in August 2017, she asked St. Thomas University Students’ Union president Philippe Ferland about students’ interests and advocacy. She wanted to know their primary focus or concern and embody that in a Yellow Box Gallery exhibit.
“I wanted to make sure the gallery reached out to more students on campus and was engaged with issues that were important to them,” said Vose Jones.
Vose Jones knew it was a big question and she offered to give Ferland time to think about it. But he responded right away: the number-one thing on students’ minds was mental health.
The exhibit called “A Load off the Mind” was her response.
It opened March 21 and was attended by 30 people, including non-STU students according to Vose Jones.
The exhibit displays six pieces in various mediums by six St. Thomas University students and alumni, including photographs, paintings, a video and mixed media works. All explore a variety of topics surrounding the issue of mental health.
One work is a video of an interpretive dance summarizing the struggles the artist experienced after she damaged her hip and lost her sense of peace with her body.
Another is a collection of photos and drawings that provide snapshots of living with obsessive compulsive disorder.
Vos Jones is happy with the diverse interpretations and engagement on the idea of mental health.
“You have people who share very personal stories about their life and their struggles and others who have taken it into a sociological and historical point of view,” said Vose Jones.
But Vose Jones wanted to add an interactive portion to the gallery as well.
She brought in a bundle of roses, so visitors could take one and bring joy with them or give it to someone special.
“That way, art spreads and that support for mental health spreads as well,” said Vose Jones.
For student contributor Veronica Nugent, the exhibit brings the therapeutic benefits of art to the public eye.
“Sometimes you can use art to express your thoughts when you don’t have the words for it,” said Nugent.
Not only was it a therapeutic experience for the artists, the exhibit allowed students and visitors to confront their own struggles or feel closer to their peers.
“I had students here who I was talking to who were talking about their own stress-level and how walking in there helped them feel some solidarity with other students,” said Vose Jones.
The exhibit will remain on display until May 14.