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“Embrace the Elephant in the Room” – A visual arts exhibit for mental health awareness to be held at Sussex County Community College

Presented by the Sussex County Community College, Alpha Arts Institute and the Sussex County Department of Health and Human Services

NEWTON, NJ (Sussex County) – In recognition of “May as Mental Health Awareness Month” and to highlight the importance of visual, performing and literary arts and their therapeutic components, the Sussex County Community College through the Alpha Arts Institute and the Sussex County Department of Health and Human Services have partnered to premier “Embrace the Elephant in the Room,” an original visual arts exhibition event on May 3.

Fine Artist Maureen Slamer is a featured artist in the first annual Sussex County Community College (SCCC) Festival of the Arts. From paintings to drawings to illustrations and collages, she has creatively connected themes of isolation and stigma related to mental health throughout her modes of art.

“My artwork can be relatable, engaging, gently disturbing, instill a sense of charm, whimsy and delightful play. This exhibition is to inspire open dialog and create human connection,” said Slamer of her work. She holds a degree in Fine Art from William Paterson University and a Master’s degree in Art Therapy from Marywood University.

“The Sussex County Department of Health and Human Services is proud to partner with the College through their newly formed and innovative Alpha Arts Institute. Collaborating on such an important joint effort to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage seeking help, speaks to our collective commitment to improving the quality of life for our residents,” Health and Human Services Administrator Christine Florio said.

The department operates various advisory boards and committees, including the Mental Health Board and the Mental Health Task Force.

“I very much look forward to attending the art exhibit on May 3rd,” said Deputy Commissioner Director Herbert Yardley. “Isolation and the stigma surrounding mental health are growing concerns across the nation and something everyone should be aware of, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. I commend the College and all participating groups for highlighting this extremely important topic in a unique and creative fashion.”

This event is free, open to the public and will be held on May 3 at 6:00 p.m. in the Atrium of the Performing Arts Center at the Sussex County Community College, One College Hill Road, in Newton. The exhibition will remain on display through Friday, July 28.

Families are welcome to attend; children’s activities will be available. Dr. Jon Connolly, President of SCCC, will deliver opening remarks. During the exhibition, a question and answer session will occur between Slamer and host Daniel Cosentino, Dean of Arts and Humanities and Director of the Alpha Arts Institute at Sussex County Community College. Staff from local service organizations and mental health agencies will be on-site to provide information on various services and programs.

“The exhibition would not be possible without the collaborative efforts of the Sussex County Mental Health Task Force, Bridgeway Behavioral Health Services and the Sussex County Community College Student Success Center,” officials said.

Funding for the Alpha Arts Institute at Sussex County Community College’s Festival of the Arts has been made available in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, through the State/County Partnership Block Grant Program, as administered by the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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