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This episode speaks to the soul of this podcast, which is turning your mission into a living and breathing movement.
Executive Director Gabrielle Martin from the Burrell Foundation shares an incredible launch story of an art exhibit, the Art of Being ME, which features personal stories of more than 25 individuals who share their lived experiences with mental health and substance abuse. What started as a local exhibit in Kansas City is making waves all over the nation. This is truly a wonderful way to wrap up this year and I can’t wait for you to meet Gabe!
The Burrell Foundation is on a mission to bring mental health out into the open, and when you can create something that’s an experiential experience, it will transport people in a way that is so powerful.
Their goal? Why not push the narratives away from social media and create an experience in-person? So they reached out to Randy Bacon, a brilliant humanitarian, philanthropist, photographer, and filmmaker.
The idea started with 22 “story heroes” who were willing to share a very raw piece of their story, whether struggling with anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, ADHD, you name it. The exhibit allows you to see their authentic selves up close, with portraits standing at 84” tall. No filters either! Some have tears. You can see every detail, every pore, every hair. There’s a 9-year old boy who shares his story about autism and ADHD, all the way up to a man in his 70s who speaks about his alcohol addiction and recovery process.
The exhibit is now traveling so it can create even more impact around the country, and with each new city they move to, they’ll add a new “story hero” to the collection.
After a launch happens, there’s normally a ton of buzz and attention surrounding it. This was no different! 300 community leaders, influencers, and nonprofits came in person, plus each story hero was there to watch what they had done. It was an all-encompassing moment for many of them.
Continuing to market the exhibit and get new people in has had an organic growth stream. It lived locally in Randy’s gallery for two months, before being packed up and brought to a mental health conference. Their team was on-site for two days in front of 200 executives within the mental health realms. From there, there were two organizations that grabbed it, so it has moved into other locations.
They’ve taken it to college campuses, even an association who made them their beneficiary at a conference. That effort raised over $10,000 for the foundation!
Gabrielle and her organization have truly turned this exhibit into a living, breathing movement.
If you’re an organization thinking how you can go down this path of creating something similar, Gabrielle challenges you to think outside of the box.
What are people not doing?
People are SO thrifty with their time these days. What is going to make them get off their couch and come out to a gallery or go to the University and see what you’ve created?
It wasn’t easy to answer these questions, but they knew that mental health was a universal topic that everyone could relate to in some way. The only way that they are going to be able to shatter the stigmas is if the conversations continue.
When she reflects back on the success of this exhibit, it has exceeded her expectations.
Between the courage and vulnerability shared by the heroes, they are single handedly changing the narrative around mental health. One nonprofit leader who watched every single video shared, “I see a piece of myself in every one of these heroes, and everyone needs to experience this.”
Gabe is working hard to get the word out about the Burrell Foundation. She would love for you to visit their website, educate yourself on what they do, and support if you’re able to. Look for the cities where the exhibit will move and tell your friends. Even better, get out there and see it!
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You can also check out more about the Art of Being ME exhibit here.
“Randy has this gift of creating this tunnel for just the two of them and this safe space. He’s already been prepped, he already knows what this individual has been through. So he is able to start guiding, and it’s almost like its own therapy session. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. At the end, everyone is hugging and there’s this connection and this bond that I can’t even explain. I am so blessed to have been a part of it for 27 heroes.”
“If in every community it moves is reaching ONE person, we’ve done our job. And we see it time and time again. It’s not just the individuals in the communities, but it’s the heroes we’ve added.”
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