PPCS Collaboration at the Intersection of Art and Mental Health

Leslie Holt’s Neuro Blooms exhibition transforms brain scans into captivating ‘maps’ of complex electrical activity that promote understanding of mental health conditions. Our PPCS residents and the general public will have the opportunity to experience Holt’s brightly colored dive into neuro-divergence over the next several weeks.

Neuro Blooms will appear as giant decals of colorful PET brain scans in Cherokee Street storefront windows. Each image will be accompanied by a QR code that provides information (in English and Spanish) about the images, the project, and mental health resources at www.neuroblooms.com/st-louis.

The exhibit launch on October 8 is part of the 2nd Saturdays event that is growing in popularity on Cherokee Street. Event attendees can experience open studios, live music, cold drinks and special pricing at local boutiques and antique stores. At Red Chair Studios, 2319 Cherokee, there will be a real-time art install from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. that includes art made by our PPCS clients in the preceding week’s workshops. Neuro Blooms coincides with Mental Illness Awareness Week October 2-8 and World Mental Health Day October 10. The exhibition closes Oct. 31.

Holt, a current resident of Maryland, and her Neuro Blooms are coming to St. Louis in collaboration with Con Christeson, managing artist of PPCS’s community collabARTive. This program allows PPCS clients to experience the creation of art in safe space. Leslie and Con are both fellows of the St. Louis Regional Art Commission’s Community Arts Training Institute [CAT]. The CAT network fosters lasting connections among its alums. Last summer, as both women were working in Amsterdam, Christeson made arrangements to see the Neuro Blooms exhibit. The aesthetic and its message of hope and resilience resonated with her, and Holt and Christeson began to plan how to bring Neuro Blooms to St. Louis.

Leslie will be facilitating a workshop with PPCS housing residents during her weeklong visit here in October. There will be additional workshops-one for CAT-trained artists and another for members of SIU-Edwardsville’s Art Hives group.

“As a jumping-off point, we will reflect on what words we might say to comfort someone who is in the midst of experiencing difficult emotions or perceptions stemming from their mental health condition,” said Holt. “We will be talking about mental health and sharing stories while we are doing simple stitching on canvas pieces.”

The work produced will be displayed at Con’s Red Chair Studios through December for public viewing and as part of the larger Neuro Blooms exhibition up and down the storefronts of Cherokee Street.

A studio and community artist, Holt has worked in the social service community for years, serving those experiencing serious and persistent mental health challenges. “Leslie will work with our clients in the spirit of art in community,” said Christeson. “Together, we create a safe space, a meaningful process, and visible evidence of who we are in the community. We honor all participants who are on a journey to understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity.”

About 30% of people who are chronically homeless deal with mental health challenges. Of our residents at Garfield Place and Labre Center, 100% struggle with these challenges. Everyone can benefit from learning about the stigma attached to mental illness and become more familiar with diagnoses, treatment, and ongoing care in the community. Neuro Blooms makes space for these difficult conversations and promotes understanding of the challenges of the unique contributions of neurodiverse people to our society.

Holt’s residency and exhibition is made possible by Con Christeson, Red Chair StudiosPeter & Paul Community ServicesCommunity CollabARTive, the Missouri Arts Council and the Regional Arts Commission.