This guest blog post is written by George G. King, Senior Deputy Director at ArtsWestchester. He was formerly Director of the Katonah Museum of Art and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM.
Most of our readers are aware that ArtsWestchester originates dozens of programs annually on-site at our incredible gallery space as well as funds other cultural organizations’ programs for the benefit of the County’s citizens. But did you know about our mental health programs? As a new member of the staff, I recently had the opportunity to visit the County’s Department of Community Mental Health to review the over 20 residencies they fund and we administer at various agencies. I came away from the meeting reminded of the daily mental challenges so many members of our society live with, and how we are doing our part in making a small difference in improving their daily lives. Working with organizations such as Hope House, the Rockland Psychiatric Center in Peekskill, the Westchester County Corrections Bureau, Phelps Addiction Center, among others, we oversee artists’ residencies in all of these facilities. The national social stats of mental health are staggering and too numerous to list here, but a few will remind you of what the challenges are in Westchester — approximately one in five adults experience mental health illness in a given year; one in five youths (aged 12-18) experience a severe mental disorder, and 20 percent of state prisoners have a recent history of a mental condition.
The arts are just one of the activities that can improve these lives. Those of us who are fortunate enough to lead lives free of these challenges must help others who cannot help themselves. As an arts professional, I was struck by the degree of ArtsWestchester’s participation in these programs, and thought it would be important for our readers to know what we are doing about it.