UNBOUND: Department of State Hospitals-Napa - CODAworx

UNBOUND: Department of State Hospitals-Napa

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Client: Department of State Hospitals-Napa

Location: Napa, CA, United States

Completion date: 2022

Project Team

Creator/Artist

Tracy Ferron

Life On Earth Art

Chief of Rehabilitation Therapy Services

Camille Gentry

Department of State Hospitals-Napa

Overview

UNBOUND invites healing through community and radical inclusivity.

Unbound is an 80-ft sculpture which transforms a large hall at one of California’s largest psychiatric treatment facilities into an evocative space of hope and healing. Unbound was produced in partnership with 1,200 patients and 70 therapists, and over 800 community volunteers and dozens of organizations. The 769 paper mâché Winged Hearts, which range in size from nine inches to nine feet, break free from a cage oozing a black sludge-like substance, symbolizing the personal and collective traumas in our world.

We partnered with Camille Gentry, Chief of Rehabilitation Therapy Services at DSH-Napa: “Our collaboration with Life On Earth Art to host Unbound and help bring this majestic vision of hope and healing to life has provided our participating patients with a unique kind of purpose,” said Gentry. When one patient saw the installation for the first time, they remarked “out of the heart comes the beauty of life.”

The centerpiece is an antique wooden birdcage connected to the plinth by a steel support covered in black resin. Seven resin and paper mâché hearts glow inside the cage. Turned steel ribbons create a tornado of transformation onto which many hearts are suspended.

Goals

We want to bring attention to the millions of forgotten and often invisible people who suffer in silence with mental illness.

The design of the Winged Hearts flying free and growing in size was conceived as a love letter to my brothers, both of whom suffered from severe mental illness. My brother, Bob, spent much of my childhood at Patton State Hospital in San Bernadino, CA.

No one asks for a severe mental illness or the cascade of judgment, shame, fear, and isolation that impact millions of people and their families around the globe. Unbound was created as a testament to how our human family can come together with open hearts to create beauty, forge compassion, and acknowledge those who feel most unseen and unloved in our society.

We wanted the patients to be included and seen. We wanted to create a sense of belonging and uplift by creating something wondrous and beautiful together.

In this project of community integration, a key goal was to closely collaborate with DSH-Napa’s rehabilitation therapy department, who offer five different modalities (art, movement, music, rehabilitation and occupational therapies). We wanted to discover innovative, diverse techniques of healing through heartmaking and to document these impacts.

Process

To realize Unbound, over the last two years, Life on Earth Art gathered a talented team of engineers, graphic designers, painters, educators, community activists, and non-profit leaders. We built a stunning central sculpture; developed our innovative mold forms to make various sizes of paper mâché hearts; developed community partnerships and custom curricula; and galvanized an army of volunteers.

Our partnership with DSH-Napa is groundbreaking. Our trucks were the first non-state vehicles to cross through the barbed-wire gates. The project was only made possible by the dedication of Camille Gentry, Head of the Rehabilitation Therapy Department. We communicated weekly with her team, known as one of the most innovative and creative rehabilitation therapy departments in the nation, bringing supplies and co-creating the program.

We created custom curricula in our work with outside organizations and engaged hundreds of community volunteers ("Contributing Artists"), including underserved populations, such as shelterless communities, dually diagnosed individuals, teen centers and mentoring groups, and churches, girl scouts and schools. As we say, "We gather. We share stories. We create art"

Collaboration is just the start, we take it further and call it, Radical Inclusion.

Additional Information

Inspired by Unbound's 80-ft grandeur and the creation of hundreds of papier mâché Winged Hearts, participating DSH-Napa patients choreographed an accompanying dance, and wrote, produced, and recorded an original song, called “You and I Unbound,” which features the following verse: We are not forgotten We will sing our hearts out I just need an ear to listen We are not forgotten We have love and minds We will climb this mountain We are not forgotten The video that we have uploaded is a cut of the song sung and performed by the patients. “The patients know that people in the community are willing to learn about their experience and have become involved in the healing process with them, which provides an important and powerful feeling of being seen."-Christine Austin, Supervising Art Therapist, DSH-Napa