Monday, May 20, 2019
Creating for Recovery Attracts Hundreds
Kiki Devan, who attended with her friend Judy Wells, examines one of the birdhouses.
Thursday, March 14, 2019


Chances are Georgia O’Keefe and Claude Monet never used a birdhouse as a canvas.

But they should have.

Monet’s “Woman with a Parasol” and “The Pond” and O’Keefe’s “Reflection” looked smashing on birdhouses of various shapes and sizes.

Ai Chia Yang’s house depicts Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist who painted many self-portraits.

And their art, painted by 56 Wood River High School students in Betty Rodger-Ervin’s art classes, served not just to uplift the spirits of those who viewed them but to raise money to support mental health in the Wood River Valley.

A couple hundred people squeezed into the Ketchum Innovation Center Monday night to view and bid on art created and donated by professional artists and amateurs as part of NAMI-WRV’s third annual Journey to Wellness Art Show.

This year’s show had a bird theme in honor of NAMI-WRV’s afterschool Bluebirds program, which teaches students coping mechanisms and other mental health skills while baking cookies, hiking and engaging in other activities.

And the art ran the gamut from Thomas Mangelsen’s photograph of scarlet macaws to Marilyn MacMurtrie’s “Handwoven Blues” scarf to David Anderson’s birds created out of mosaic tiles.

Judy Fox painted “Bird of Hearts” during a painting class Poo Wright-Pulliam offered at The Senior Connection.

Bex Wilkinson contributed a large-scale multi-media piece that featured red rose petals running across the canvas.

She wrote that she had created the work after her spouse had taken his life and the roses had made it more palatable for her as a survivor and a way to heal.

The high school students bought wooden birdhouses with money provided by the WOW Generosity Project. Then they researched artists who had mental health challenges, such as Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Francisco Goya, Edvard Munch, Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock, and painted some of those artists’ works as mini-masterpieces on the birdhouses.

The art show has grown immensely from the first one at Gail Severn Gallery, which featured valley residents’ interpretations of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Starry Night,” said NAMI-WRV Board President Daniel Hansen. And this one took a village, he added, from the seniors who painted bluebirds under the care of birder-artist Poo Wright-Pulliam to restaurants like Dang’s Thai Cuisine that donated wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Quincy McGraw decorated his birdhouse with the pop art of Andy Warhol.

“The way everyone comes about to champion something that’s in the closet like mental illness is amazing,” he said. “We’ll be using the money we raised to expand programs. We’re also working to get a better presence in Ketchum, Carey and Shoshone.”

Carol Barton donated a whimsical portrait of birds lifting up a dachshund’s ears.

Another piece of art featured a little boy swinging on a rope with the words, “When you come to the end of your rope, make a knot and hang on.”

Kirk Anderson donated photographs of pelicans while Steve Dondoro offered up a photograph of a lilac-breasted roller found in sub-Saharan Africa. Lisa Holley offered a scarf featuring her art of an osprey packing lunch and Tewa Evans, a set of placemats featuring monoprints of a raven.

Paulina Garcia chose one of Frida Kahlo’s paintings to decorate her house.

Judith Kindler, a nationally renowned artist living in the valley, donated her portrait of a “Crowned Rabbit.”

“Creating art fulfills the emptiness we often feel in life and, in my case, emotionally reflects my inner thoughts about those things outside ourselves,” she said. “In a way, creating art is a mentally cleansing process.”

“Spending and witnessing nature is and has been very centering and healing all my life,” said Tracy Lang, who contributed three bird portraits.

The local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness seized the opportunity to stash some teaching points among the art:

“There is a virus spreading across America. It harms the 1 in 5 Americans affected by mental health conditions. It shames them into silence. It prevents them from seeking help. And, in some cases, it takes lives,” said one.

“It’s stigma. Stigma against people with mental health conditions. But there’s good news Stigma is 100 percent curable. Compassion, empathy and understanding are the antidote. And your voice can spread the cure.’

NAMI-WRV provides Family-to-Family classes to help family members and friends understand and figure out ways to help loved ones with mental illness. Its Peer-to-Peer Connection Group teaches coping skills  to individuals with a mental illness.

And NAMI leaders advocate on behalf of improved mental health care in Boise and Washington, D.C., in addition to training emergency responders to offer safe and compassionate intervention.

To learn more, visit


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