Spring Collaborative at USF by Dawn Morgan

WMNF Drive-Time News Monday


Spring Collaborative at USF



On Thursday, February 1st, an art exhibit opened at the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute on the University of South Florida's Tampa Campus. The art work was contributed from 5 local organizations who train people with mental, physical and emotional disabilities in the arts. WMNF's Dawn Morgan has more.



Judi Jetson has been the Director of the Collaborative for Children, Families and Communities at the University of South Florida for nine years. Her office is housed in the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute on the northwest corner of campus; the halls and walls connecting each office like an empty canvas, white and barren.


Judy1 – “Ever since I started working here, I thought wouldn’t it be great if these walls were used as a gallery?”


Knowing Jetson’s artistic abilities, Dr. Bob Friedman, Professor and Interim Dean of the Florida Mental Health Institute, asked Jetson if she had any input on what could fill the corridors. Jetson got in touch with another local artist, Elizabeth Mitchell, who teaches art to people with mental health challenges.


Judi1 – “She’s really excited about the work they were doing. And I said, ‘Maybe you could help us accomplish our goals of having appropriate art at the FMHI.’ And then I found out we have a statewide group called VSA Arts right here on the USF campus, that works with people with disabilities who are artists and helps them promote and sell their work. So VSA Arts got involved and brought three other groups who all do the same work. So we’ve discovered this group of 5 different organizations that all help artists with mental, developmental, and physical disabilities that get their work out and sold.”


The end result was a collection of 53 pieces and the birth of the Spring Collaborative of Art Exhibition. The opening reception was held on Thursday, February 1st.The show gave the artists, with various mental, developmental, and physical disabilities, mainstream exposure in a public space. Previously, their art had been limited to the galleries of their day training centers.


One such center, Mental Health Care, Inc., teaches its students to live independent and meaningful lives through a variety of life skills and art classes. They serve 270,000 clients annually though 35 programs in 24 locations throughout Hillsborough County.

 The Mental Health Care Inc. website cites that one in five people experience some kind of mental disorder in the course of a year and that every dollar invested in mental health services saves at least three times that in hospitalization, crisis unit and incarceration expenses.  

Mental Health Care Inc.’s art instructor Elizabeth Mitchell introduces her students at the reception:


"Tim, paints on silk. We have the lovely Eleanor, who's about 70. She wishes only to paints pictures of Christ and she paints them all day long. Has one painting in the exhibition. Fun to teach her more advanced painting methods of painting so it's not simply a line drawing, although her drawings are very beautiful too."


USF senior Jessica Joy Goldberg won a nat'l VSA art program last year. Her art was on display at the Smithsonian, and is now touring the country. She had several pieces at the art exhibit, including one piece called From Past to Present, which hung in Dr. Bob Friedman's office for the last 2 years.


[ view art at http://jessicajoyart.com/pastpresent.html] "On left, me as a baby. On the right, me 3 years ago. Clock hands double as pens, paints a frame around my past. Alludes to clock, that comes into the present. Comes out into boxes that go into an infinite unknown. Monochromatic imagery around the baby, dark because the past wasn't that fabulous and memories fade. It gets brighter. The first oil painting that I did. And I'm ready to let go of it now."


WMNF asked Jessica about her life as a disabled artist:

 "I don't really consider myself disabled. I was born dead, had seizures. Miraculously they just stopped. Came to the U.S. and got tested for everything under the sun. They thought I had cystic fibrosis, but I had really bad asthma. Really bad eyesight, even with my glasses I can't see perfect. Oddly enough there is so much detail in my work. I somehow conquered that. Still a little slower than other people. But it comes out fine." 

Born in Guyana to an American woman, Jessica’s mother may have used drugs while pregnant.


"I lived in the hospital for the first five years of my life. We were on Medicaid. They wouldn't give us a nebulizer. So I was constantly in the hospital. I remember being in the metal cribs. Eventually, my asthma got a little better. Up until 10th grade I was still hospitalized twice a year. A couple of months ago I was in the hospital two times because of the place I was living was really old. Still kinda recovering from that, but I'm a lot better now."


Dr. Friedman bought the art. It was among 12 pieces that sold in the first hour of the opening.


Bob Friedman - “We are honored to sponsor this reception and feature the art work done by individuals of many orgs. Life with a mental health challenge has been expressed beautifully, in ways that communicate powerfully to all of us. We’re privileged to do and delighted to feature the artwork.” 


The gallery at the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute will be changed every three months. For more information, call 813-974-4602 or go to www.wmnf.org.


Reporting from the University of South Florida, this is Dawn Morgan for WMNF News.







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