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Jai’s Story: Connecting with community since entering Avivo’s Mental Health Clinic

Jai and their therapist from Avivo’s Mental Health Clinic noticed when they first started meeting that art Jai created included frames or boxes. Reflecting on Jai’s artwork of late, they’ve noticed that those barriers have been removed. Jai’s feelings of safety and comfort have grown since entering Avivo’s services two years ago.

“I’d created a container in the beginning, working on my feelings of insecurity. Now I’ve created resting points [in my art]. Everything isn’t guarded. Not everything needs a frame.”

Jai first started working with Avivo through individual therapy at Avivo’s Mental Health Clinic and became a member of Avivo’s ArtWorks program shortly after that. Jai had learned about art as a child and started drawing in their 20s.

“My grandpa was an artist,” shares Jai. “We had art all over the house and I’d learn how to draw noses and hands… I’ve been doing art for the past five years now as a professional artist.”

Jai shares that the combination of therapy at Avivo and finding permanent housing has “unlocked something” in them. Jai was homeless from 2018 until November 2021. While working with Avivo, Jai obtained and moved into permanent housing, which allowed them to create art and feel stability they hadn’t felt in years.

“I feel more capable to do all the things I want to do now that I’m not concerned about where I’m going to be sleeping. That was questionable for a long time…”

“I feel more capable to do all the things I want to do now that I’m not concerned about where I’m going to be sleeping. That was questionable for a long time,” shares Jai. “If you’re not housed, you’re always worried about where you’ll be staying … I have places to store my art now. I have access to a whole wall of art supplies. I can do anything I want and feel free to express myself. That’s been a very new thing in all aspects of my life.”

Jai shares they have not only benefited from individual therapy sessions, but the many group sessions, virtual and in-person, that are part of Avivo’s Community Support Program.

“During the pandemic it’s been helpful to reach out to other folks who are going through stuff and connect with other neurodivergent folks and folks who are part of the LGBTQ community. It makes me feel less like I’m trapped in a box.”

As Jai’s confidence has grown, their artwork has started to be shown in more places around the Twin Cities. Jai’s work can be seen at the Hennepin County Library’s Franklin Avenue location through May 2022, and their work was recently shown in 2022’s Art-A-Whirl event. Jai is also a volunteer leader at a community garden celebrating local Black history in Minneapolis.

“Therapy has helped me literally look up at the trees… Remembering I don’t always have to look over my shoulder and be afraid of things,” shares Jai.

When thinking about the future, Jai hopes to create art with sculpture and murals, as well as pottery. They’re also looking into grants to support creating community art to tell the history of underrepresented communities. It’s the community connection that most inspires Jai.

“In my experience Avivo is unique in the way that it connects you to community,” shares Jai. “That could mean a therapist being supportive of you, or making new friends, or finding a new space to be in to create. That’s very rare.”

“In my experience Avivo is unique in the way that it connects you to community,” shares Jai. “That could mean a therapist being supportive of you, or making new friends, or finding a new space to be in to create. That’s very rare.”

Avivo’s Mental Health Clinic and Community Support Program offer much-needed connection and support for adults living with mental illness. Our Community Support Program consists of three focus areas: FoodWorks, NatureWorks, and ArtWorks.

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