PPCS Collaboration at the Intersection of Art and Mental Health

Leslie Holt’s Neuro Blooms transforms the digital imagery of PET scans [positron emission tomography of the human brain into surprising and colorful ‘maps’ of complex electrical activity that reveal and promote understanding of a myriad of mental health conditions.

In July 2022 in Amsterdam, Con Christeson, managing artist of the community collabARTive of Peter and Paul Community Services, attended a showing of these images and hand-made paintings and embroidery in a gallery in Amsterdam. Since then, and as colleagues and alumnae of the Community Arts Training Institute [CAT], Con and Leslie have been collaborating to bring her this surprising and engaging work to St. Louis.

Neuro Blooms, in the form of giant decals, will appear in the windows of storefronts up and down Cherokee Street, accompanied by a QR code and this link, to provide information [in English and Spanish] about the images, the project, and mental health resources. These installations will coincide with October as World Mental Health and with Mental Illness Awareness Week, October 2-8. On October 8th, during the monthly Second Saturday Art Walk on Cherokee Street, viewers can look for Neuro Blooms decals in many windows and experience open studios, live music, cold drinks and special pricing at local boutiques and antique stores. There will be a real-time install at Red Chair Studios, 2319 Cherokee, from 10-2 on that day featuring art made by local artists in response to Neuro Blooms.

Exhibiting artists who will meet Leslie include residents of Peter and Paul Community Services’ transitional housing programs, invited CAT-trained artists, and members of ArtHives groups. About each event, Leslie says:

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 We will be talking about mental health and sharing stories while we are doing simple stitching on canvas pieces. Individual pieces from each event will be strung together and displayed in the windows at Red Chair.

In addition to being 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. Together, we create a safe space, a meaningful process, and the visible evidence of who we are in the community,” says Con. “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. A significant number of people in the general population are effected by similar challenges and choices. All of us can benefit from recognizing the stigma it carries associated with diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care in the community. Neuro Blooms makes space for these difficult conversations and promotes understanding of the challenges of mental health treatment and the unique contributions of neurodiverse people.

Leslie Holt’s residency and exhibition is made possible by Red Chair Studios, Peter & Paul Community Services [PPCS] Community CollabARTive, the Missouri Arts Council and the Regional Arts Commission.