News Item: Addiction and Art Website Launched

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Demand Grows for
Art About Addiction

What began with annual exhibits and coalesced into a volume of images and statements by artists affected by alcoholism and other addictions has found a home on the Web.  Margaret Dowell, who along with Patricia B. Santora and Jack E. Henningfield (all PhDs) shepherded that process over the course of several years, has taken it upon herself, with the help of webmaster Don Dunsmore to launch the Addiction and Art website.

Originally supported by the now defunct Innovators Combating Substance Abuse Program, a national program office of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Art and Addiction annual competitions invited artists to submit work related to their experiences with alcohol and other substances, provided an exhibition opportunity and gave cash awards to the best of them.

In 2008, that year’s selected pieces traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for display at the annual scientific meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence.  Two years later, the Johns Hopkins University Press published the story of the Art and Addiction exhibitions in a professional volume now called Addiction and Art.  A review on these pages highlighted the power of these images to convey the suffering of those caught up in substance abuse and dependence, either their own or that of someone close to them.

With the goal of fostering the use of visual art to enhance awareness and sensitivity to the devastating effects of addiction and to assist others interested in sponsoring similar art competitions and shows, Innovators had developed a replicable protocol, included in the book.  Dr. Dowell began the new website as a way to encourage and document these shows.  In an email, she had this to say:

I had been involved in organizing several, including the model at Carroll Community College (where I am an adjunct professor), and helped with writing the Innovators guidelines for Addiction and Art Exhibitions.  I witnessed the masses that turned out for these shows – the galleries were PACKED…..there is so much interest in this topic.

She soon noticed another need.  Visitors to the site wanted images they could use immediately in their prevention and treatment efforts.  Currently exploring how to make that happen, Dr. Dowell continues to build a community of artists and professionals interested in harnessing the power of images to confront addiction.  Stay tuned.