Illumination: An Art Show Supporting Mental Health 

Full disclosure: My kids are in a very tough stage. Breccan is turning from 3 to 4, which is mostly amazing (good riddance threenager stage), but he’s super kinetic and wants to be out and active all the time. And Olin has his the fussy 16-month stage and GETS. INTO. EVERYTHING. And he is STILL not sleeping through the night. I’ve also been a bit sick, had a friend’s wedding, and just been trying to enjoy the summer. I’ve neglected my writing lately – after a day of keeping my fed/changed/out of trouble and trying to hold onto literally the bare minimum of a clean house, I have very little creative mojo. Quite honestly, I’m over a month late on this post, and I have lots of guilt about that.


I had the opportunity to attend the Illumination art show, poetry reading, and fundraiser held at Symmetry Lighting. These truly inspiring mamas pooling their creative works to raise money for The Kettle Society. It was inspiring and reassuring to see other mothers flexing their creative muscles in support of mental health.


Painters Laurel Swenson and Lori Popadiuk and poet Alisa Hutton came together to have an in person gathering to connect about how mental illness touches us all in different ways. It was reaffirming to see these women, all mothers at different stages and with kids of differing abilities making creativity a priority in their lives, and not just stopping there but using their mediums to raise awareness about mental illness.

I am strong because I have been weak. By Laurel Swenson.

Failure is a Bruise, Not a Tattoo. By Laurel Swenson.

Cry a River. Build a Bridge. Get Over It. By Laurel Swenson

Painters Laurel and Lori have different but complementary athletics. Both are abstract artists, but that is where similarities end. Laurel’s paintings are very graphic, explorations of color and texture, which reflects her background in graphic design. She adds the titles at the end of the process, pulling from a list that she is constantly adding to. Her titles range from inspiring (“I Am Strong Because I Have Been Week”), to affirming (“Failure Is A Bruise Not A Tattoo”), to cheeky (“Cry a river. Build a bridge. Get over it.”). The titles have kind of a mantra quality to them, little phrases that can lift you out of a fog. They make perfect sense, as Laurel is currently working toward a Masters in Counseling, inspired by her own struggles with depression. Laurel has a daughter who is now in her 20s. She relates that once your kids are grown up, society treats you like you aren’t a mom anymore. But you still feel like a mom everyday.

From Drifted Words by Alisa Hutton
Alisa believes not enough people talk about mental health issues as part of the mom community. She has a uniquely challenging situation: she is a single parent to an autistic son who is non-verbal. Her son has sleep issues, and she compares it to being in the newborn stage for 8+ years. She uses the time her son is awake at night to write her poetry. She publishes them in blog format, and she also has a book, Dusted Words. Her poems are raw, honest, and often unexpected and funny. “The Protagonist” is required reading for anyone feeling out of control in their life.
WIDE OPEN: chaos No. 2

WIDE OPEN: chaos No 2

Lori has had a more tragic experience with mental health. She recently lost her brother, who struggled with schizophrenia and was a victim of the fentanyl crisis. Her latest paintings from her Wide Open series, titled “Chaos”, were done all in one go, and were inspired by what she felt after her brother passed away. Her kids are in elementary school and were supporting their mom by selling 50/50 tickets. Lori paints in the evenings. Her current work is about evolutions, exploring the idea that you don’t have to be the same thing today as you were yesterday.


Motherhood can so easily consume your identity. Right now, it really feels like the most prominent part of mine. It was inspiring for me to see the creative force of these 3 women. Please go check out their work, and make an effort to support the creative endeavors of local moms. Hopefully I will be back to writing more regularly soon!