From Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker in Dark Knight, some of the most prominent cultural masterpieces are the product of trauma. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, Mental Health and The Black Artist is a three-part virtual series to discuss the reality and tackle the struggles of how black artists create through trauma.
Curated by Troy Pryor, an award-Winning Executive Producer and founder of Creative Cypher, the series sparks a much needed conversation around the significance of caring for one’s mental health while simultaneously producing quality work in creative spaces. “The series was specifically designed to highlight the experiences of those in the spotlight,” said Pryor. “Everyone deals with various levels of trauma but those in front of audiences don’t often get the opportunity to ‘turn off,’ be human, and heal.”
The Mental Health and The Black Artist series is moderated by Dr. Gloria Chance, and has featured panelists such as Arielle Miree (Therapist), Jamal Josef (Choreographer), Chantel Chavon (Director), Anthony Williams (Actor), and several other prominent Chicago creatives. Each conversation consists of each panelist sharing personal experiences, their journey and practice of perseverance through various setbacks that can weigh on their mental health.
“I was an athlete for years and later became a coach,” shared Pryor. “We always understood the value in recovering from physical traumas so it’s extremely important that we grasp this same concept when dealing with mental traumas.”
During one of the initial sessions they discussed how creating art can help release stress and allow healing. Panelist and celebrity choreographer, Jamal Josef shared how he had to produce new choreography sets in 45 minutes for Beyonce’s iconic Coachella performance. “Everything I choreographed for Beyonce for Coachella was trauma,” shared Josef. He went into detail of how life experiences and current scenarios really weighed into his performance and the masterpiece he created. Based on what he came up with “that was the first time in history that [Beyonce] had never changed the choreography” by another dancer. Indeed, beautiful things can be formed out of pressure.
One of the goals of the series is to “demystify therapy and the term ‘mental health.’ It does not automatically mean illness,” declared Pryor. “I also want to highlight the healthy methods that people in high-pressure situations use. Hopefully, our audience can apply those to their own lives.”
The next installment of the Mental Health and The Black Artist panel series will take place Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at 7 PM. Be sure to tune in here.