BROCKTON, Mass. — Almost 1,500 people died from overdoses in Massachusetts through the first nine months of 2019, according to the Department of Public Health.
The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton is hoping art can help raise awareness and ease some of the pain surrounding the epidemic with a new exhibit called “Human Impact – Stories of the Opioid Epidemic.”
Chief Curator of Exhibitions and Collections Beth McLaughlin explained, “It offers our community a space to come, to reflect on the pressing issues, to perhaps find comfort in the objects that they see here, and to learn even more about the issues of our times.”
To create the exhibit, McLaughlin assembled addiction specialists from the High Point Treatment Center, members of the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office, and students from Stonehill College to discuss how an art exhibit could take on this topic.
“We put together a partnership team to ensure that the project was authentic and that we had that variety of perspectives because we didn’t want to get it wrong,” said McLaughlin.
A call then went out for proposals from artists and 11 were selected out of more than 70 submitted ideas.
Each of these artists was paired with a family touched by the crisis. The artist then created a specific work of art to highlight a different facet of the epidemic.
McLaughlin added, “I think that art, in particular, offers a really accessible entry point for people to really deal with very uncomfortable or difficult issues through the lens of creative expression.”
John Christian Anderson, a Boston-based artist, was one of the artists selected to participate. He created a work he called “Sacrificial Lamb.” It shows a head upside down in a vat of empty pill bottles. Above the head is a bomb.
“I was really thinking about a 10 to a 12-year-old kid. I wanted somebody of that age group to be able to look at it and relate to it and get it,” explained Anderson. “The head being upside down, the idea that your whole world is turned upside down.”
Anderson was paired with a woman who lost her brother to an overdose. He was a carpenter who injured himself on the job and didn’t have the resources to stay off the job to heal.
“The OxyContin took care of the pain and allowed him to keep working, and that eventually snowballed into something that was bigger that he couldn’t handle. And a year later he was dead,” he said.
It’s a tragic story that Anderson hopes he’s relayed in a way that helps one family, and potentially all of society. “I guess I hope they feel that people are listening and paying attention, that their loss isn't in vain so to speak, and that maybe by telling their story, it will help somebody in the future, and prevent somebody from dying.”
“Human Impact: Stories of the Opioid Epidemic” will be on display at the Fuller Craft Museum through April. It’s scheduled to move to Boston Hall for the month of May.
McLaughlin is hoping the museum can find other venues to stage the exhibit this summer.
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