Detroit art series recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and “Looking for the Light,” an art exhibition and event series dedicated to destigmatizing mental illness, opens Friday in Detroit’s Midtown.

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

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

Artwork by Emilia Nawrocki.

“Mental health impacts us all. We want to shift awareness to remove the stigma, bring light to useful resources, and help people feel like they are not alone,” said co-creator Gretchen Gonzales Davidson, who brainstormed the series with Dan John Miller, brother of Michael Francis Miller, to honor his artwork and develop an impactful way to get the community involved.

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

Both Miller and Syme 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 (bi-polar and schizophrenia), he became an advocate for people struggling with mental health.

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

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