What Happens When Art and Mental Health Collide?    

Filmmaker and mental healthcare advocate Edward Hill, left, and artist Asia Hamilton, right, use their creative talents to discuss needed conversations in the Black community and beyond.

Photos provided by Edward Hill and David Rudolph


“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

No truer words were spoken than by the 20th-century writer and theologian Thomas Merton.

Losing and finding oneself – while pressing on toward greater dimensions creatively– is a constant realm artists live in as they express their pains through paintbrush, on-screen through art installations or elsewhere.

For 26-year-old Redford resident Edward Hill II, art is an entry point into having needed conversations – especially in Black communities regarding mental health.

Black Art Is … A Conversation Starter 

As the project founder of The Infinite Steps to Health (ISH) Project, a nonprofit community wellness group, he recently debuted his first documentary “Black Health IS” in late July in Ann Arbor; a second one is coming in August.

The “Black Heath IS” documentary takes the lead of the ISH Project by bringing the conversation of health to the forefront and applying it directly to the Black community in the form of a methodical storyline and using metaphorical art to educate the audience on why improved Black health is so critically necessary. The film highlights real testimonies from individuals touching on the topics of mental and sexual health in the African American community.

The ISH Project aims to improve not only the quality of life of its participants but also that of the greater community by educating its members on various ways they can get their communities active outside of the traditional physical activity people may know.

“We want to plant the seed in people’s minds that health is more of an umbrella term with many subcategories under it,” Hill was quoted as saying in the press release. “Mental and emotional health are both elements we often forget to include when we say we want to improve our health. Our organization offers unique activities to exercise every aspect of our overall health”.

Hill, a graduate of University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Xavier University in Cincinnati (and currently attending Wayne State University), was the winner of the 2021 Black Art & Film Fest, and Best Documentary Award in the 2021 Best Experimental Documentary for “Black Health IS.”

Hill told the Michigan Chronicle that while at Xavier he studied philosophy and he had to write a senior thesis on how to properly heal patients based on their cultural and racial backgrounds.

“The more I thought about that the more I realized … we don’t actually know; we don’t actually discuss the roots of where these issues are coming from and then how to properly acknowledge the Black community in comparison to other races,” he said, adding that the film was “necessary” to show the mental health hurdles the Black community faces.

Hill’s documentary is slated to be shown a second time (along with a panel discussion) Sunday, August 15, at Nandi’s Knowledge Café, 71 Oakman Blvd. In Highland Park; a time was not established yet as of press time. His upcoming event will feature discussions surrounding healing, artists and their perspectives and more.

“[It’s] really important we dive deeper and really think critically around it [mental health]; the only way we’ll be able to shift the climate around it,” he said.

For more information or to find out details about the upcoming showing visit blackhealthis.com and www.theishproject.com.

Black Art Is … Finding Healing in Grief 

Asia Hamilton likes to get lost in flowers– while inspiring others in the process.

Hamilton recently curated a live floral art installation, “Flower Therapy,” presented by Norwest Gallery of Art in Detroit.

The installation benefited the Norwest Community Collaborative’s COVID-19 Gardening Through Grief Project, a non-profit organization.

As a COVID-19 survivor who lost her mother to the same virus last year, Hamilton said that finding flowers inspirational inspired her healing journey.

“The inspiration to curate ‘Flower Therapy’ came from the great loss I, and many others in Detroit and around the world, experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hamilton was quoted as saying in a press release.

She said that the flowers she sent and received were a constant in her life. Hamilton told the Michigan Chronicle that she once took a trip to Traverse City and was inspired by a beautiful flower garden there which took her on her artistic journey.

Hamilton says that flowers are a reminder of the grief and loss she is experiencing and the joy and happiness that they give her.

Also, she and her project partner Kayana Sessom founded The Gardening Through Grief Project to encourage floral healing.

In addition to the community herb and flower garden being a healing space it is also a touchpoint for Sessom who tragically lost her father to COVID-19.

“Detroit has suffered so much loss from gun violence to this terrible pandemic that we felt the need for a space of healing and understanding. Flowers helped me through my grief, and this Flower Therapy exhibition is just that, therapy,” added Hamilton.

For more information on Flower Therapy, call (313) 293-7344.

Staff Writer Sherri Kolade has been at the Michigan Chronicle since November 2020. She typically covers stories on Black-owned businesses, real estate development, mental health, politics, community news, features, and money. If you have a story idea you would like to pitch her on these topics and beyond, email her at skolade@michronicle.com




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