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Art Exhibit Opening & Reception: Community on a Shelf: Exploring the Human Side of Mental Illness by VersAnnette Blackman
“I make art because I have to. It is a sacred spiritual practice. A safe space where I can breathe because I know I belong in it.”—Verse
Join us for an opening reception for Community on a Shelf: Exploring the Human Side of Mental Illness on display in the Main Library Lobby Community Engagement Space. Meet the artist and celebrate the creative works of VersAnnette Blackman LMT. As an artist, writer, advocate, and healing arts practitioner, she has 10+ years experience as a trauma informed facilitator in various settings including domestic violence shelters and Chicago high schools. The exhibit will be on display through November.
VersAnnette is the founder of (H.E.M) an acronym for Heal, Empower, Motivate. This non-profit's mission is to use art and creative writing to help survivors heal and find their voices. In 2015 VersAnnette was awarded the Peggy A. Montes Unsung Heroine Award by the Cook County Commission on Women's Issues. She is the author of Butterfly Spirit: Poems of Transparency, Transformation & Truth.
My paintings emerge from a deeply held and regarded intuitive head space. To create out of nothing, no plans, scheme, or intent I step up to the canvas ready to unleash whatever lies inside me waiting to be expressed. I move while I work, I sing, I stretch, I cry, I dance, I do whatever I feel.
All in all, my work is meant to communicate what words cannot. I strive to make it less about what the eye sees and more about what the soul feels. My curious soul is what guides me to not try and hide behind a perfectly polished picture. The energy that translates from my work is the raw emotion that cannot be denied or even fully explained. My intent is to create art from a process that is transparent; meaning I cannot take full credit for what the experience. I’m aware that I am a Co-creator with Source. Often the painting reveals to me as much about myself as it does to the consumer about his or herself. We are both bearing witness.
I work primarily with Golden Acrylic paints and gel mediums, markers and various tools for mark making, foam brushes and fingers. I love to work on big huge stretched canvases for full freedom. The bigger the canvas, the more I can stretch and challenge myself; this is a metaphor for my life. I tend to lean towards bright vibrant hues, but I have a deep love for mixing color and experimenting with new hues. Another metaphor for the way I prefer to live.
I make art because I have to. It is a sacred spiritual practice. A safe space where I can breathe because I know I belong in it. It is a form of worship, one of the primary ways I communicate with my God. It is one of the only places I feel embraced, free, alive and completely accepted. It is a healing, a bearing witness to all that I’ve overcome and all that I have yet to experience. My painting process resembles what I want most for my life: To be seen, to be healed and heard, to be raw and unapologetic, to be bold, soulful, energetic, and take risks.
About the author
Alex is the author of four books, including his most recent, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago (available in print and on CD through the library catalog). His other books include the national bestseller There Are No Children Here (available in multiple formats through the library catalog) which the New York Public Library selected as one of the 150 most important books of the twentieth century. It received the Helen B. Bernstein Award and was adapted as a television movie produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey. It was selected by The New York Times as a Notable Book of the Year along with his second book, The Other Side of the River which also received The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Nonfiction. His book on Chicago, Never a City So Real, will soon be released in paperback. Learn more »
More about An American Summer“An American Summer is an archive of the war—like finding a shocking but beautiful bundle of letters and photographs in the attic. Except that these dispatches reflect the daily violence that many Americans are experiencing, right now, in too many of our cities. Alex Kotlowitz dispenses with wooden categories of criminal and victim. With his uncommon warmth and sensitivity, he makes us understand that violence doesn’t happen in a moment; it’s a state of affairs.”—Sarah Koenig, creator and host of Serial
A Moveable Read: Hemingway in the 21st Century is a six-part discussion series based on Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories.
Each discussion will feature guest speakers discussing specific short stories and interrelated topics of today. A writers craft talk will take place at the end of each discussion. In partnership with the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park. Learn more at hemingwaybirthplace.com.
6:30-7 pm: Wine and beverage service
7-8 pm: Story discussion with guest speakers
8-8:30 pm: Writers craft talk
Locations vary by date; see below
October 17, Maze Branch: “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”: Loneliness, War & Mental Health
Karolis Gintaras Zukauskas, Writer, Professor of Language Arts, Morton College and Laura Young, Oak Park and River Forest High School English Department and Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park Writer in Residence
November 14, Maze Branch: “A Moveable Feast”: The Ex-Pat Life in the 1920s
Paris Karolis Gintaras Zukauskas, Writer, Professor of Language Arts, Morton College and David W. Berner, Author, Journalist, Associate Professor Columbia College
February 20, 2020, Main Library Veterans Room: “Fathers & Sons”: Family Relations, Inheritance & Hyper/Toxic Masculinity in Hemingway’s America
James Bell, Oak Park and River Forest High School English Department and Theatre Director and Cameron Gearen, Author and Former Writer in Residence
March 19, 2020, Maze Branch: “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”: Gender Roles, Art & Patronage, Truth, Lies & Hemingway’s Fiction
Michelle E. Moore, Ph.D. Professor, English, The College of Dupage and Mary Claire Childers, Adjunct Professor, English, College of DuPage
April 23, 2020, Main Library Veterans Room: “The Killers”: Violence, Racism & Boyhood Innocence
Michelle E. Moore, PhD, Professor, English, The College of DuPage and Steve Gevinson, Oak Park and River Forest High School, Former English Division Head
May 14, 2020, Main Library Veterans Room: “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”: F. Scott Fitzgerald: Ernie and Scott’s Fraught Relationship
Vincent Francone, Professor of English, Roosevelt University and Paul Noble, Oak Park and River Forest High School English Department