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Episode 2 – Art and Mental Health: Can They Co-Exist, or Must They Compete?

In this episode, Bud and Laura have a lively, wide-ranging discussion with Philadelphia artists, Abby Squire and Rosie Carlson about how art and mental health affect one another. Abby and Rosie discuss their process in making art and how this intersects with their mental health.

EPISODE 2 – Art & Mental Health: Can They Co-Exist, or Must They Compete?

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Rosie is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Her passions include graphic design, painting, and a love of studying women’s historical roles within fermented beverages in early modern Europe. She says, “It’s only recently that I’ve admitted to myself that I need art; that I need to be making it. Valuing my art has allowed me to tackle anxiety and depression like never before because I’ve come to value myself.” Rosie’s website is

Abby has been living in the city for the past three years and is continually inspired by all of the creative people who call Philadelphia home. As a teaching artist with The Claymobile, a mobile arts initiative serving low-income students, she has had the opportunity to work within diverse communities throughout the region and share artmaking with students who don’t have access to art programs in the public schools. When not at work, she devotes her time to her own creative pursuits; reading her favorite authors, and exploring every corner of the city on her bicycle. Abby currently resides in her West Philadelphia home with her Golden/Pit Bull, Eloise.

Laura and Bud pose challenging questions to their guests, such as, what is more important, mental health or art, and are the two mutually exclusive? The guests and hosts explore these and other questions while investigating how to incorporate self-care into making art. Struggle is an inherent component of any creative endeavor, just as struggle with issues like anxiety and depression is part-and-parcel of living with mental illness. The hosts and guests offer candid and revealing insights into the intense, rewarding, and challenging life lead by artists, as well as individuals coping with mental health challenges.


RELATED: Mental Health > Art an essay by Laura Farrell


Torrey Pines

torrey_pines_header torrey pines

Clyde Petersen is one very, very busy guy. He is an indie animator, musician, and activist who lives and works in Seattle. He is currently knee-deep in an autobiographical feature-length animated film titled Torrey Pines, which he describes as “a stop-motion animated adventure film: coming of age with an undiagnosed schizophrenic single mother in San Diego in the 1980s.”

With a mother fueled by hallucinations of political conspiracy and family dysfunction, Clyde is kidnapped at the age of 12 and taken on a cross-country adventure that will forever alter the family as they know it.

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Mental Health > Art

laurafaces - mental health art

Mental health is more important than art. I know many who would disagree with this statement. I know artists who put themselves in situations to “create.” I know artists who won’t leave unhealthy situations because they are being “artistically productive” or “making important work.” Often times I encounter people that are in triggering, depressing, abusive, or oppressive situations (we all are in some ways, of course, living in the society we live in) because they think it enhances their work. I know many artists who push against these things, but in doing so still do not value their own mental health. It may be because it’s not as important as the thing they want to say, or the thing they want to create. It may be because they can’t see out of their depression or situation. It may be a lack of awareness or understanding.

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A Choice

mental health

I don’t really want to share any of this. I feel uncomfortable, weak, vulnerable, and afraid. My mind is like a pendulum swinging from, “I don’t have any problems and it’s a sham to pretend that I’ve struggled with mental health issues,” to, “I’m too crazy and now people are going to know and they won’t like or respect me anymore.” So uncomfortable, so rooted in stigma and fear.

mental health

In the most wonderful TED talk, Brené Brown discusses the concept of vulnerability and how the act of being vulnerable is the cornerstone of human connection and the source of true peace and belonging in this human existence. She explains that in order to experience anything good, we must allow ourselves to experience the challenges too — that we can not selectively anesthetize ourselves to what we classify as the negative — sadness, shame, discomfort — without blocking what we deem to be positive as well, which includes joy, pleasure, and genuine connection with other people.

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