0
Votes

A Joyous Occasion

To the Editor:

Artists, their families and friends, and members of the community who attended the opening reception of “Art Uniting People” at the Lee Center not only got to see some powerful, moving, sad, jarring and funny works of art including photography, paintings, sketches and sculpture, they also got a chance to learn what it takes to be happy with Liberian-born storyteller Vera Oye' Yaa-Anna who told her tale of the king of the historic city of Timbuktu who was always unhappy no matter what his loyal subjects and servants tried to do. With the help of dancers Diane Freeman and Thomas Lee and drummers Yerone Sanders and Joseph Ngwa, the audience was soon clapping, dancing in their seats, down the aisles and on stage and chanting “I am Happy.” A few tried drumming including an intrigued four-year-old.

This was the third annual celebration of creativity and mental health, a free and fun event for everyone who attends. None of it would have happened though, if it weren't for a large group of volunteers from several organizations across the city and the generosity of local businesses.

A special thanks must go to Carrie Fesperman, staff support for the Anti-Stigma Hope Campaign of the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria, Cheryl Anne Colton of the City of Alexandria Office of the Arts, Jackie Person, head of the City of Alexandria Therapeutic Recreation Program, Jennifer Cohen Cordero, CSB staff and spreader of the word, and Michael Gilmore, executive director of the Alexandria Community Services Board, the master of ceremonies.

There would have been no food or drink without Tiffeney Sanchez, co chair of the Friends of the Alexandria Mental Health Center, and the event would never have come off so seamlessly without the meticulous attention to detail of her co-chair Susan Drachsler, who organized volunteers, made sure everything was perfect on stage and even manned the lights. Thanks also to the volunteers from Friends who took care of the food tables, handed out programs and welcomed guests.

Once again Alexandria Cupcake donated their sweet treats. Other business donors who helped make the exhibit possible included Alexandria Picture Framing, Art & Frame, Artifacts, Inc., Carriage House Picture Framing, Erickson & Ripper Gallery, Kelly's Fine Art Gallery & Frame Shop and Principle Gallery.

Partners and hosts of the event included the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria, the Friends of the Alexandria Mental Health Center, the Alexandria Community Services Board, the Alexandria Commission for the Arts, SCAN and the Department of Community and Human Services.

For those who missed a great event, the art will remain on exhibit at the Lee Center outside the auditorium for six months and then be transferred to the Beatley Library. Last year's exhibit is currently on display in the main area of the Beatley library. Stop and take the time to look the next time you are there.

photo

Mary Anne Weber

Storyteller Vera Oye' Yaa-Anna and members of her troupe gather on stage at the “Arts Uniting People” opening night reception with some of the artists whose work was on exhibit along with Michael Gilmore, center, executive director of the Alexandria Community Services Board. Auntie Oye', second from the left, told a story, sang and danced with drummer Yerone Sanders, master ancestral drummer Joseph Ngwa and dancers Diane Freeman and Thomas Lee at the May 9 event at the Lee Center. This was the third annual “Art Uniting People,” a celebration of creativity and mental health. The art work will remain on exhibit at the Lee Center for six months and then will be moved to the Beatley Library, where last year's exhibit is still on display.