By Shelby Otto
On Nov. 14, Sharadin Arts Building hosted its first annual Creative Royale. Through the partnership of Professor Ann Lemon and Frances Cortez-Funk, Opioid Treatment Specialist and Director of the Office of Health Promotion and Alcohol & Other Drug Services at KU, the event was intended to host a collective of student artists and other creatives in a kind of arts competition to encourage positive mental health for artists.
The event kicked off with a heavy yet inspirational speech about addiction and mental health among other related topics by Lemon herself. She used a kind of meditation exercise to describe the prompt given to help direct each student in the creation of their work.
Funk initially approached another art professor, Kevin McCloskey, when her department received a special grant, which allowed the collaborative event to take place, and McCloskey put Funk in contact with Lemon.
Lemon has a personal investment with topics related to addiction, mental health and self-care, so she was immediately taken by Funk’s idea for a friendly art competition.
“I also have a personal mission to counteract the myths of artists being mentally ill, addicted, unstable, broke, etc.,” said Lemon, “We can’t buy into that stuff … We want our students to take care of themselves, to be at their most productive and healthy.”
The work students made were diverse, with paintings, etchings and other mediums featuring a broad variety of colors and materials, with scenes that were serious, humorous and abstract, to name a few. Different work stations occupied various classrooms on Sharadin’s main floor, with extra materials housed in the Miller Gallery. Two-dimentional-based artists were in one of the drawing rooms, and 3-D-based artists were in one of the freshman sculpture studios.
The turnout for the event far surpassed the expectations of both Lemon and Funk with attendance preparation accommodating a total of 40 people with a base satisfaction for 15-20. However, students blew that number out of the water with a total attendance of 70 makers.
Once artists had participated in and began to wrap up at Lemon’s meditation/reflection session, they immediately disbursed to collect their materials and begin the two-hour countdown that would determine the end of their studio session.
Throughout the event, participants were provided food and drink, music and even free caricatures whenever they decided to take a break.
At 8 p.m., the working session came to a close, and participants hung their pieces in the main hall to display what they had made. Works covered every open space on the critique boards.
Lemon hopes to make the Sharadin Creative Royale an annual event from here on out in order to circulate the same kind of enthusiasm and positivity that encompassed the event this year.
“I could see us changing the theme or doing the prompts differently,” Lemon said, when asked what she might change about the event in the future. “I do think that getting people to talk about mental health and learn solutions for stress management are critical efforts on campuses.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or other related issues on campus, reach out to Counseling & Psychological Services at KU at 610-683-4082 or, if in an emergency, public safety at 610-683-4001.