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BREAKTHROUGH encourages audiences to rise from ashes

Laura Bennett and the Breakthrough Team hope to de-stigmatize mental illness and create a judgement free space with their ArtPrize submission "BREAKTHROUGH."
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To learn more about the project and the art, visit the website here.

To vote, use code 62545 or vote through the website.

Laura Bennett with "BREAKTHROUGH"

Laura Bennett with "BREAKTHROUGH" /Avery Johnson

"BREAKTHROUGH" is a time-based ArtPrize entry located outside of the DeVos Place Convention Center. It was created by collaborators Laura BennettMark Bird and Randy Flood, two psychotherapists and a fine artist, in an attempt to bring attention to and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.

"What we're trying to do is start a conversation about mental illness in the community," says psychotherapist Laura Bennett. "And to try to break down the stigma, the judgement and the shame... We deny what's real for us. We go to the doctor for a sore throat, but we won't tell our spouse we've been having thoughts of suicide..."

The piece is made of shards of broken plates that form the image of a phoenix. The plates were broken by members of the community who participated by, "visiting our 'breaking studio' where they may break ceramics as a symbolic gesture of accepting and breaking down old and dysfunctional paradigms free of judgement or shame."

"The mental health world," continues Bennett, "is filled with words and metaphors surrounding breaking, but they all tend to be negative, but what they are is breakthroughs. What if we encouraged people to do it in a controlled environment? The phoenix is thought to have died in the fire, but he rose again to new life from the ashes, so it's a universal symbol of hope..."

The creators describe that their mission for the piece is to, "raise mental health awareness and challenge stigma, on a personal and community level. The project goal is to provide a symbolic experience to break down barriers that often prevent people from experiencing personal peace or from reaching out for treatment and support. By promoting a healthy acceptance of one’s own emotions and authentic experience, free of judgment or shame, we hope to provide a safe and metaphorical image for personal and societal change."

Although the piece has already been created, there are still opportunities to participate in the project. There are regularly held breaking sessions by appointment so the public can be a part of the symbolic gesture, but there are also opportunities to volunteer with "BREAKTHROUGH."

"[It's] a metaphor for the human experience," says Bennett. "It feels like fire to experience depression, or saddness or grief. Those are very difficult emotions, but they're very human emotions... The phoenix symbolizes the hope, the freedom and the health that is promised on the other side of the fire."

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