An Artist Draws Portraits of Healing for Those Suffering from Addiction and Mental Illness

Gloucester-based artist Amy Kerr draws portraits with a message of healing.

Kerr’s subjects are regular people, suffering from a variety of diagnoses, but many of her portraits show her subjects doing things they love — holding pets, playing piano and walking at the beach — a reminder that we are more than our diagnoses or emotional states.

“I’m trying to capture what I see as the best representation of each personality,” Kerr said. “They’re all so different.”

The drawings are part of a project Kerr spearheaded, called “I Am More,” which depicts people overcoming their struggles.

In recognizing National Recovery Month this September, the drawings will be on display at the Danvers Treatment Center, part of Lahey Health Behavioral Services. The Danvers Center specializes in treating substance use disorders.

Kerr’s personal experience with depression inspired her to create the “I Am More” project.

“The idea came to me in a low moment,” she explains. “It’s the idea that I am more than this, that I am more than a person with depression. I have skills, and goals and loves.”

In January 2017, Kerr began drawing the first subjects. That year, she completed 16 works. She’s now working on an additional 20 portraits.

The portraits have been displayed in locations throughout Massachusetts. So far, the response Kerr has received has been motivating.

“After seeing the portraits, a lot of people reached out to me to say they too had depression,” Kerr said.

Also, people have offered support or asked to commission additional drawings.

Once Kerr decides on a subject, she asks the person to write about his or her condition and recovery process. The writing can take the form of an essay, a list or even poetry. Kerr meets with the subject to take reference photographs.

In her exhibits, like the one at Lahey Health Behavioral Services, the portraits will be displayed with the first-person narratives.

National Recovery Month is held every September and is sponsored by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services in an effort to create awareness of mental health and substance use and to celebrate and support those who are in recovery.

Amy Kerr’s multimedia exhibit and the Lahey Health Behavioral Services Recovery Month celebration will be held on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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