“Stigmatized: The African-American Male and Schizophrenia” at Fresh A.I.R. Gallery

Schizophrenia is a heavy word. Sometimes we use it in jest, but the condition after which it’s named is dire. It casts a sense of shame that is so strong and dark, its sufferers have trouble coping. This is why Cincinnati artist and care provider Michael Coppage took action. For two years, he captured the “apathy, anger, and fear” he felt while counseling patients, and interpreted his experiences in a series of sculptural pastel portraits. The result is Stigmatized: The African-American Male and Schizophrenia, which opened on Wednesday night at Fresh A.I.R. Gallery in Columbus.

“I view Schizophrenia as a terminal illness with symptoms that carriers struggle to control their entire lives,” said Coppage. “The need to fit in and ‘be normal’ is often the biggest barrier to medication adherence and routine mental health treatment for the young African-American male population diagnosed with a mental illness.”

With this beautifully brave exhibit, Coppage aims to conjure something vital: Empathy. “We need all of the help and support we can get,” he said.

Fresh A.I.R. Gallery (A.I.R. stands for Artists in Recovery) highlights art created by individuals who are affected by mental illness and substance abuse. It educates community members and dispels stigmas by focusing on journeys of recovery and artistic spirit.

Stigmatized will be on display through March 30. An artist’s talk with Coppage will take place at the gallery on March 30 at 4:00 p.m. Click here for more photos.