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Artist selected to create conversation around mental health

Originally posted in June 2021

Photo by Ryan Loew / PublicSource

Local artist Jason McKoy is partnering with ECO and the Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization (SNO) on a public art project that will create a community conversation around mental health. In 2020, the two neighboring nonprofits were awarded a grant from Neighborhood Allies, the Office of Public Art, and Millvale Borough to work with an artist on a placemaking project. Placemaking “refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.” After a thorough selection process, ECO and SNO selected Jason to collaboratively develop the art project over a two-year period and engage with both communities.

The topic that ECO and SNO chose for the art installation is mental health and its intersection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Jason McKoy is a Pittsburgh-based artist who has delved into the topic of mental health in his work and in his life, and he welcomes the opportunity to begin the conversation around this issue with our communities. “Jason's work peers inside the viewer's mind and makes them question what they accept as real. He asks them to abandon preconceived notions to get to the core of matters: connection. As connection is something he struggles with, consider his art and expression an outreached hand.” This process is evident in his 2018 Interactive Media Installment called “Contextual Camouflage” that “allowed people with mental health disorders to share their experiences anonymously via an app. Each share showed up on a public heat-map video display, creating a colorful collage that resembled a camo pattern.”

As ECO and SNO continue with this process, we will be updating both communities on ways to get involved. It is our hope that this project will bring the community together to begin a conversation about this important and often stigmatized issue that was so exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Art has the power to inspire and bring about change, and we hope that this process will help lead our communities on a path to healing after a traumatic year.

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