Art Prize 2018 – Disease Does Not Discriminate (Work in Progress)


Another drizzly Michigan autumn, another excursion to Art Prize. It’s all over but the memory…


But this year, we took a special interest in art with a greater message: making misery your mission. The women of Sanford House at Cherry Street had an opportunity to hear Leyna Luttrull’s recovery story. She is the artist behind the piece “Disease Does Not Discriminate (Work in Progress).” Vonnie Woodrick, of i understand – love heals, helped make Leyna’s vision come to life.


Personal Stories of Mental Health Diagnosis…

The art piece, assembled by the “I Am More Than What You See” team, chronicles personal stories of mental health. Large panels, which tower over the viewer, are adorned with hand prints. And contain written accounts of those who have loved someone with a mental illness. Alongside each panel is one of Leyna’s paintings. They depict a mental health diagnosis (Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, Substance Use Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Suicidal Ideation, Dissociative Disorder, and Anxiety). Our group fell quiet and contemplative as we walked through the installation. Nearby is the i understand 2017 art prize submission. “The Door is Always Open” by sculptor Daniel Carlson.


Our work is a dedication and breathing piece in honor of those who have suffered in silence from Mental Illness or lost someone who has… We’re not only offering a visual demonstration of the magnitude of the ripple effect created by these issues, but on-site information connecting those who view it & are affected by it to local resources, counseling, and assisting in formulating treatment plans…


Perhaps the most powerful aspect is the team of incredible volunteers from national organizations that continue to step forward & back our project. As we give access to counseling services at the site of the piece in an effort to save lives. Meeting people where they are to show them they are loved… Leyna Luttrull


Losing Ourselves in the Art…

Naturally, residents splintered from the group. And they spent time with the panel or painting that spoke to them the loudest. We couldn’t help but lose ourselves in the maze of histories and letters. Each bleeding into one another, folding onto one another, touching one another. The words were overwhelming both in meaning and magnitude. “We miss you every day…” “I still love you, even now…” “Hurt.” “Fix.” “Reason.” “Memory.”



The artist on a misty Michigan morning… smiling…


Reaching out to the public, I encouraged people to send in stories of their personal depictions of mental illness and the issues that they faced living with these disorders. As the stories poured and I started to notice the similarities between the way that people who had never met each other described things such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and a litany of other mental illnesses. Using common words between the stories, I was able to piece together a visual of what each of the people were experiencing in the hopes that for those who struggled to communicate with words, they would be able to have a picture to explain their reality when words often fail.

Before painting the images, I sent a rough draft or ideas back to the people who had shared the stories with me and allowed them to make suggestions as to colors, tone, or anything they felt was off. After approval, I then painted and released the images along with the DSM-5 classifications of each mental disorder, signs and symptoms, information on how to seek treatment, and a message of hope to those who felt alone.

The response was overwhelming and lead to people using the images to explain themselves to family members, their own therapist, and sharing them with loved ones who are suffering.

The goal is to have a completed total of 50 paintings, some showcasing the differences between the male and female aspects of each disorder, and then to compile these images into books to pass out to therapy clinics across the nation for someone who might be struggling to communicate their afflictions to their therapist. Leyna Luttrull



Hand prints, photos and love letters…


When we’re vulnerable… when we open up, share our stories, allow ourselves to touch and be touched… we often find common ground. That is one of the tenets of group therapy: to establish trust in one another, and uncover our similarities. According to residents, this helps normalize the experience of addiction.


Because when we feel comfortable sharing our struggles – our mistakes, failures, relapses, and shadow sides – we can begin to dismantle the shame and stigma that weighs us down.


The team, “I Am More Than What You See” is dedicated to using this ArtPrize piece as a platform to not only perpetuate hope and love, but to bring awareness to the growing of a national crisis, by finding a way to do so in celebrating the love that people still have for those they have lost or who are currently suffering. Our piece is a tribute to their strength.


For more information about Leyna and the I Am More Than What You See Team, visit their Facebook page.




Author Jess Kimmel has always had a passion for art and when she discovered art therapy it just made sense. Jess is an Art Therapist who serves as Clinical Manager, Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women. Jess has a B.S in Psychology and an M.S. in Art Therapy. Art therapy allows her creativity to shine through her work and she thrives on seeing the confidence grow in the individuals she works with at Sanford Behavioral Health. Jess is from Hartland, Michigan and currently lives in Grand Rapids.