Don’t Make It A Poster Contest–Make It A Poster Project

You want to encourage people to make recovery posters, but that doesn’t mean you have to pick one or more winners and reproduce them as “The Recovery Poster”.

Instead find people who are already doing art and ask them each to do a poster for you. You can simply rely on what they imagine recovery is, suggest a number of themes, or ask them to include a word or even a phrase in the poster.

Take what you get and consider whether one or more submissions are touched with a kind of genius, and if so, go ahead and reproduce it. Or take all the submissions and glue them onto a great big piece of fabric, using them like quilting squares. Maybe you want to put titles under each one, like “Healing”, “Transformation”, “Love” etc. Put this big “quilt” up in a prominent place and use it to set the tone for your setting.

It’s a good idea to obtain releases for art, which don’t have to be very complicated, but include both the art work itself and the rights to reproduce it in any media. Copyright law seperates the physical work of art from the right to sell or use copies of the art work. If someone doesn’t want to sign a release, maybe you can display their work but avoid making it the logo for your organization.

There is a difference between recovery art and some other kinds of art, and you will know the difference when you see it. There are no skulls, flames or words like “kill”, “sorry” or “bad” in recovery art. One of the flavors of recovery is “Flower Power Recovery”, and recovery art is flower power art.

People might create a picture of the bad side of mental illness, and from this derive some good. In fact, it is a very popular project to make collages where people cut out pictures and phrases from magazines and create visions of the bad on one side and visions of the the good, or recovery, on the other.  This type of thing might be therapuetic, but it is not particularly helpful in showing other people who are  starting out the hope that recovery represents.

Art for art’s sake is another category of art. For people who are artistically talented, this is the way to go. For the rest of us, the more guidance we get to create something with a recovery message the better–maybe with a lot of glitter and candy hearts glued around the edge. You can even buy specialized kits of glitter, letters etc. for just this sort of thing.

It is potentially a problem if someone feels left out, because, for whatever reason, their art work isn’t included or isn’t as prominantly displayed as others. This is the problem which causes professional educators and others to criticize poster contests. Of course, if you ask only certain people to participate, because you see they already produce nice things and they also hopefully will go along with the positive orientation of the project — well other people might feel left out.

Introduce art as a option for people to participate and encourage people to include themselves in different projects, including recovery posters. People who are into recovery should choose this project, and you can produce the kind of work which is helpful in instilling hope in others.

People who want to do their own thing or something else hopefully will be satisfied with that. Recovery is a social movement, as well as whatever else it is, so mobilize those who are in recovery to do something and create something to influence other people to join in. All kinds of clinics have wonderful art on their walls created by their clients, and those clinics are considered leaders in the movement. Somehow this happened without issues about judging art by different people becoming a barrier, so the walls remain bare but somehow politically correct.


About mentalrecovery

I work in a large mental health clinic and am active in NAMI
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