Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

MOCA artist Brian Friend.

WOOSTER − Brian Friend returned to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Wayne and Holmes Counties van with a smile on his face.

Alongside his classmates and friends, he just toured some of the downtown stores and businesses displaying their pieces of art. For many, it was their first time presenting anything they created to the public.

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Jen Grim, director of advancement NAMI, Kerri Manley-Still, project coordinator Main Street, Joe and Jenna Laughlan owners Omaha Bob's with an art piece of a NAMI person.

“It feels really good; this is my first having anything on display,” said Friend after the walk. “It’s really exciting.”

The 24 participating NAMI artists, including Friend, live with mental health conditions. Over the last year, they created personalized works of art in the MOCA House Recovery Program at NAMI.

Now, nearly 50 canvases and photos showcasing their artistic talents are on display and for sale at 16 downtown stores and businesses during this year’s Artists Among Us.

The exhibition ends Friday, Oct. 21.

Artists are among us

Embellish Tattoo Company owner Nic Rothgery, NAMI Director of Advancement Jen Grim and Main Street Kerri Manley-Still with several NAMI art pieces on display.

The goal of Artists Among us is to bring awareness to mental health recovery, NAMI Director of Advancement Jen Grim said.

In its third year, the event was born out of the pandemic and in conjunction with Main Street Wooster.

Each piece is under $100 and all proceeds return to NAMI and the MOCA program, she said.

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“We intend to keep doing it each fall,” Grim said.

For Main Street Wooster Project Coordinator Kerri Manley-Still, the event is something she always look forward to in the fall months.

“Jen reached out a few years ago and it was an amazing opportunity to work with volunteers and a nonprofit,” Manley-Still said.

She created a map of downtown with the locations of participating businesses highlighted.

Main Street Wooster's map of downtown Wooster. It includes the 16 participating businesses and stores that are displaying MOCA paintings. The event Artists Among Us ends Friday, Oct. 21.

Participating businesses include:

  • NEST: 132 North Market St.
  • Friendtique: 133 West Liberty St.
  • Vertical Runner: 148 West Liberty St.
  • Artfind Tile: 143 South Market St.
  • Meraki Artistry Permanent Cosmetics: 230 South Market St.
  • Broken Rocks/Rox Gastropub: 123 East Liberty St.
  • JK Gift Shop: 144 East Liberty St.
  • Graham & Burns: 142 East Liberty St.
  • Undergrounds Cafe & Coffeehouse: 146 East Liberty St.
  • Boba Bowl: 127 West Liberty St.
  • Wayne County Public Library: 220 West Liberty St.
  • Murr Printing: 201 North Buckeye St.
  • Embellish Tattoo Company: 156 East Liberty St.
  • Omahoma Bobs Barbeque: 128 South Market St.
  • A Time to Craft, LLC: 149 North Walnut St.
  • Walnut Street Gallery: 148 North Walnut St.

Celebrating the artists

Connie Barnard is a water color teacher at NAMI's MOCA program.

Connie Barnard is a watercolor teacher at NAMI’s MOCA House Recovery Program.

She teaches a variety of painting techniques that use plastic wrap, salt and straws to add texture that creates a style of personalized funk to each painting.

Seeing her students display their creations is just one of the rewarding aspects of her time at NAMI.

“It’s powerful to have it on display,” Barnard said. “I think it’s fantastic to share with the community.”

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