Molly Corrick started painting in 2003, taking classes to help her find a way to manage her mental illness and feel a sense of accomplishment. In the years since, she has created more than 150 paintings and has sold about 70, continuing to grow as an artist.
“I was pretty sick [when I started painting],” Corrick said of her schizoaffective disorder, diagnosed in 1980. “At the time I was taking classes, I wanted to become a famous artist.”
While perhaps not famous, Corrick said: “I do have a following and I have done well over the years. I just put one foot in front of the other.”
Corrick’s work — featuring vivid colors in acrylic — will be among the more than 480 pieces on display by local artists with mental illness as part of the 22nd annual Artability Art Show & Sale in the Great Hall in St. Paul’s Lowertown. The show began with a reception Friday night and is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
More than 120 artists will have work on display in the former Great Northern Railroad Building at 180 E. 5th St. The event is free.
The show, sponsored by People Incorporated, got its start years ago as a way to increase awareness of people with mental illness while giving artists the satisfaction of having their work appreciated or sold, said spokesman Bill Gray. The program serves 10,000 people a year.
“It’s done to show that mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t do things,” Gray said. “One in five people deal with mental illness at some point in their lives. Something like this helps reduce the stigma.”
Added Gray: “These are people who don’t see themselves as artists … until a piece sells.”
Last year, more than $18,000 worth of art was sold at the show, Gray said. Artists keep 80 percent of what a piece sells for. The other 20 percent goes back to People Incorporated to fund Artability workshops. Classes are free to anyone living with a mental illness.
Mike Conroy has painted and conducted workshops for the program since its start. In the beginning, maybe 20 artists created fewer than 50 pieces that were displayed in church basements. This is the third year the show has been held in the soaring Great Hall. Conroy, who has depression, sells something every year, he said.
On a recent afternoon, as he helped hang pictures in the exhibit space, Conroy said he really enjoys teaching others how to paint. He conducts weekly workshops for five to 10 people.
“Usually, if people are consistently coming to the workshops, they can learn something,” he said. “Taking part is great for everybody. There is something for everyone. As a whole, it’s pretty amazing.”
St. Paul artist Bart Galle also was helping set up the show, and has volunteered with People Incorporated for about 10 years, since his son Alex died of an overdose at the age of 20.
Galle created an award in his son’s name, to be given annually to an artist with mental illness, “often someone flying under the radar,” he said.
Alex Galle, too, was an artist, working with watercolors and colored pencils. His father volunteers, in part, to remember his son and honor him. And, part of it is “the pleasure that comes with seeing the art that they create.”
Corrick, who started as an artist taking classes at the Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, said Artability “is a big deal. They are nurturing and don’t take much money to help us out. And people all over the state come to it.”
Her painting, Tattooed Lady, won a contest to be featured on this year’s Artability poster.
“I get a kick from it emotionally, and it’s just fun to get your work sold and honored and have your stuff out there,” she said.