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Gallery features patients' work

March 7, 2003

By Kirsten Rockwood

The spacious, circular area is illuminated by the light from windows extending around three-fourths of the room. The walls, reaching from marbled mosaic floors, are bursting with color and decorated with murals, paintings and crafts.

It's a typical setting for Waco's latest art gallery, ARTistic XpressionZ, but it's the artists who set the exhibit apart.

The gallery, an extension of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation's Supported Employment Program, provides an opportunity for clients to showcase talents that otherwise would go unnoticed.

'A lot of clients are too sick to hold down regular jobs,' Keirschen Maize, MHMR supported employment coordinator, said. 'But many of them are really talented in the arts and do it on their own at home.'

Maize, a 2001 Baylor graduate, began the project as a supplement to her regular job that helped clients find jobs, fill out job applications and strengthen resumes. What she found, however, was that a lot of clients were not suited for the normal workplace.

The gallery, which had its grand opening in December, gives 14 artists the chance to profit from their work as well as increase their self-esteem and confidence, Maize said. During its first show, $1,400 was made from the sale of art, and all proceeds went directly to the artists.

The gallery also serves to educate members of the Waco community about the valuable contributions that people with mental illnesses can give, Tina Steed, supported employment coordinator, said.

'A lot of our consumers had done this stuff for years but had never shown it before,' Steed said.

The works include drawings, paintings, sculptures, mosaics, jewelry and graphic art, all priced to sell.

As many of the clients are on limited budgets, the gallery is accpeting donations for art supplies for them to continue working on their craft.

To be a patient at MHMR, one must be at leat 18 years old and be diagnosed with a major mental health disorder like major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or schizo-defective disorder.

Although the gallery has regular hours only from Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m., it is available for group tours and has scheduled a spring opening on March 28 from 5 to 7 p.m.

The gallery is located at 2111 Austin Ave.