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Rebuilding Hope: CWCC Art Show Helps Put the Pieces of Recovery Back Together

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The Central Wyoming Counseling Center is hosting an art show, but like art itself, this show is anything but typical. 

The name of the show is ‘Rebuilding Hope: The Puzzle of Recovery’ and, as the title suggests, its purpose is to detail the complexities of mental health. 

Mental health itself, for all of us, is an intricate puzzle. Unlike actual puzzles, however, the big picture never stays the same. Pieces are constantly moving in and out. Some fit, others don’t. Some get bigger, some smaller. And, try as we might, we can never get the whole thing to look exactly the way we want it to; the way it looks on the box. 

The clients and the staff of Central Wyoming Counseling Center know this, and the 2024 art show is designed to show just how many pieces there are in the mental health puzzle. 

“We have held art shows three or four other times,” said Kendall TeBeest, Grant Writer and Business Developer for CWCC. “Our clients would create some sort of art, within various themes. We’ve done themes like ‘Behind the Mask,’ where they’re showing what mental health looks like on the outside. One theme has focused on walking in others’ shoes, so they decorated shoes, and so on.” 

Each of these themes examines certain elements of mental health. But this year’s theme may be the most poignant of all.

“Our theme this year is ‘Rebuilding Hope: The Puzzle of Recovery,’” TeBeest stated. “So our clients are being given puzzle pieces, and the only direction they’re being given is, ‘What are the pieces of recovery that you experience?’ Different people have different experiences. For some, the pieces will symbolize the challenges they go through. Some will symbolize the milestones or the hopeful moments. It’s up to the clients’ mentality; how they express themselves and where they’re at in their journey.” 

Another difference between this art show and art shows in years past is that this one includes a fundraising event, happening at The Nicolaysen Art Museum. 

“We’re doing a week-long art exhibition at the CWCC facility,” said Pam Brondos, the Board Secretary for CWCC, and one of the committee members tasked with designing the show. “And then we’re having a separate fundraising event at The Nic. That event is designed to reach out to our community supporters and to individuals that have an interest in supporting mental health and substance abuse and suicide prevention within Natrona County and Wyoming.” 

The event at The Nic is invite-only, and it’s happening on May 2, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The show is serving as a fundraiser to help raise money for the various integral services that Central Wyoming Counseling Center provides to the community. The show itself will feature select pieces of artwork from clients and staff of CWCC, including the puzzle piece exhibit. Throughout the evening, there will also be live, dueling “quick draws,” featuring artists Alicia Thaden and Karen Henneck. 

The two artists will paint their own piece, and then switch paintings and work on the other artist’s piece. Each painting will then be auctioned off later in the evening. Also being auctioned off will be two club-level tickets to see country music star Morgan Wallen in Denver this summer. 

The week-long art exhibition at Central Wyoming Counseling Center is another example of how CWCC is utilizing different types of therapy for their clients. Art therapy is a major component of mental healthcare, and this show is proof of that. 

“This is a huge form of therapy for our clients,” TeBeest stated. “After speaking with several clients and some of our counselors, I’ve learned how rewarding it is for them to actually put pen to paper, or to paint, or to have any sort of creative outlet that they use to reshape their mentality with something they’re struggling with, or something they’re going through, or something they’re recovering from. We’re trying to make strides in how we treat our clients and how we can help them learn and grow from their experiences here.” 

For many clients, the ‘puzzle piece’ aspect of their mental health is an apt description. Sometimes it feels like something is missing in their life; something big or something small. Sometimes it feels like all they need is for just one thing to fit into place in order for the big picture to finally turn out. Sometimes that piece is gone forever, lost to the chaos that surrounds it. 

Whatever the reason, projects like this allow clients to decide what the metaphor means to them, and create appropriately. It’s a chance for them to use their innate creativity to express what’s going on inside of their heads and hearts. For some people, talking about their struggles is hard. Some people don’t like being vulnerable. Others just don’t have the words to describe what’s happening inside of them. That’s why avenues such as this are so important. 

“From what I’ve learned, talking with our counselors and some clients, is that creating – especially creating art – is a huge way of expression,” TeBeest shared. “And through this recovery process, that’s a big, key point of what they’re exploring. They’re learning who they are and why they are and what they are and what they want to be. And in this art, with this artistic expression, they’re able to put an image to it, so to speak.”

Perhaps most interesting, and important, of all is the fact that no two puzzle pieces are exactly the same. 

“Each one of the puzzle pieces that we’re getting are vastly different,” TeBeest continued. “Each person has a different visual representation of their story and their recovery process.” 

Events like these art shows serve as an opportunity for clients. They’re able to express with their hands what they can’t with their mouths. And the results are…beautiful. Tragic. Inspiring. 

“Many clients write out a companion piece to their art project that explains what they went through in creating their art,” Brondos said. “It really is a cathartic experience for them. Some of the pieces are pretty painful. Creating the pieces provides a new way of communicating, and that has a pretty dramatic effect on the clients.” 

That is the purpose behind this art show. That’s the biggest reason CWCC puts it on every year – to give clients an opportunity to express themselves in a healthy, safe, creative way. But the other reason they put it on is to show the community just what is happening behind the walls of CWCC. Life is complex. It’s hard and it’s complicated and it’s messy and it’s beautiful. Just like a puzzle. And Central Wyoming Counseling Center exists to help people find that missing puzzle piece, and to help them, finally, put it into place. 

“CWCC is here to de-stigmatize the issues that our clients experience and that act as a hindrance to them reaching out and getting the support that they need,” TeBeest said. “And I think events like our art show allow us to not only humanize our clients, but we’re also celebrating them. They are worthy of celebration and praise and we’re glad to play a role in publicly celebrating them through events like this.” 

CWCC’s 4th Annual Art Show is a week-long open house happening Monday, April 29 through Friday, May 3 in the main lobby of Central Wyoming Counseling Center. It is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. It will feature art from clients and staff and will culminate in an invite-only fundraiser, happening at The Nicolaysen Art Museum on Thursday, May 6. 

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