At the new Mental Health Peer Drop-In Center, Muscatine painter Chris Anderson uses his talents and experience to help others wrestle with their own mental health struggles.
Anderson, who was once homeless and has struggled with mental illness, created a series of paintings to help bring awareness to a variety of mental illnesses and to provide peer support making and exploring visual art. Each painting is based on a famous painter and the specific mental health battles the artists faced.
“Chris is a peer who has lived similar experiences,” said Scott Dahlke, Executive Director for Muscatine Center for Social Action (MCSA) “This is his way of giving back to the community and helping his peers hear the story of hope related to their mental health.”
Last week, Muscatine Center for Social Action (MCSA) and Robert Young Center celebrated the opening of the Mental Health Peer Drop-In Center located inside MCSA .
This is a unique mental health service that Dahlke says typically isn’t offered in rural counties like Muscatine. The Mental Health Peer Drop-In Center is free of charge and no appointment is needed for people to access the services. Dahlke says program services are perfectly integrated into the entire MCSA building and everything available there.
Trained Robert Young Center professionals are on site during all hours of operation for care coordination, group discussions, and
individualized case management. Peer Counseling by a certified professional who has personal experience with mental illness is also available.
Accepting services is not a requirement, everyone is welcome to engage as much or as little as they would like.
The center offers a relaxing space to play games, read, do puzzles, socialize with peers, and meet with professional staff.
“The peer role,” says Dahlke, “helps clients break down barriers to make mental health treatme
nt more bearable.”
He says art, like what Anderson is doing, is a wonderful avenue for clients to learn, cope and manage their mental health struggles.
“How sweet is that guy?” Dahlke said of Anderson and his donation of the four paintings to MCSA. “He’s just trying to give back and to help promote mental health.”
Anderson’s first painting, A Sunny Day, was inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s A Starry Night. Van Gogh struggled with substance abuse and the mental disorder Attention-Deficit/Hyper Activity Disorder (adhd). Anderson said he used bright oranges and yellows to focus on creating his Muscatine-inspired riverfront landscape.
Anderson’s painting based on Salvador Dali is about suicide awareness and an anti-bullying message. According to Anderson, Dali caused himself to go into psychosis on purpose, in order to allow himself to paint with unbelievable skill and achieve reach in his art.
Another work by Anderson was inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat who struggled with racism, substance abuse and family history of mental illness.
Anderson has been on a mission this last summer to “Paint The Pearl” by creating wall murals on buildings throughout Downtown Muscatine.
He has multiple projects in the works and has partnered with the Muscatine Convention and Visitors Bureau and Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine to raise funds and resources to complete the projects. Sunrise Galleries in Muscatine donated four 30×40-inch professional canvases for Anderson’s MCSA project.
During the grand opening for the Mental Health Peer Drop-In Center at MCSA last week, Anderson’s paintings were sold through
a silent auction to community members there to celebrate the opening.
Hours of operation for the drop-in center are Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8:40 p.m. and is located at 312 Iowa Avenue in Muscatine.
Additionally, MCSA offers shelter for the homeless and those fleeing domestic violence, a homeless prevention program, permanent supportive housing, a food pantry, health services through community partnerships, and collaborative learning opportunities.