Ending the stigma one tile at a time
Art students spread a message of hope
CENTREVILLE — Courageous Marks is a multi-faceted Community Arts Project created by four Queen Anne’s County Public Schools art teachers to help raise mental health awareness in hope to erasing the stigma often surrounding people with mental health conditions. The goal is to use art as a vehicle to start positive conversations, spread education and make connections with people in the community, they said.
The project started when art teachers Stephanie Zeiler, Cassie Hossler, Tim Goodger and Megan Spence attended a Maryland Artistry in Teaching Institute over the summer. Zeiler said there they were tasked to identify a need they felt was in our community and to create a Community Arts Project that addressed that need.
“We decided we want to use art as a vehicle to spread information, create positive conversations and build support throughout the community,” said Zeiler.
The elementary students, under instruction of Hossler and Spence, created stepping stones around Character County Pillars to be placed at Church Hill and Grasonville elementary schools. Queen Anne’s County High School students created (and are still creating) ceramic tiles
with positive messages to be placed randomly through the community at some local businesses and outside around town.
Attached to the tile is a card that reads, “Hi! You’ve found me. I’m yours to keep or pass on to someone who might need a positive message or who might have a mental health condition and needs to know they aren’t alone, and we care! I am part of a Community Arts Project and I was made by a student at QACHS. Our mission is to help spread mental health awareness, using art as a way to start conversations and build community in hopes to erase the stigma of mental illness!!”
Also on the card are QR Codes to the website and Facebook page — Courageous Marks — as well as links to both and to Instagram and Twitter pages, explained Zeiler. The website gives information on the overall project and has a page listing local and national agencies dealing with education on mental health, and who provide guidance and help.
“We not only are trying to build relationships with the school and community, but also within the school community,” said Zeiler. We had students teaching staff, to try and build more trust and supportive relationships so students feel they can go to an adult to talk if needed. We also had Ceramic students pairing with ESOL Students to teach them to create tiles, she said.
The goal in the next two years is to build collaborations between elementary, middle and high school students to design and build bird baths to be displayed in public places throughout the county.
The first tiles have been placed in various locations in Centreville, and the group plans a second wave the first week of May for Maryland’s Children’s Mental Health Awareness week.
As tiles are being discovered, the stories are being shared on Courageous Marks social media sites, the account that follows is just one story of how a single act can create a ripple effect.
Our local McDonald’s partnered with us, said one of Courageous Marks volunteers, providing an area we could place tiles. After placing my third one along the window shelf, an employee stopped me. He said he had found two around town. The man told me he saw the first one with love written on it. At first he thought it might have been something a child left, then he said he thought better because it was in an abandoned store front. He picked it up and read it. He then took it and placed it on his parents’ grave. He found the second one, which a student created specifically for autism, in town. He collected and gave it to his friend whose brother has autism.
The tile was gifted to Amanda Kalmanowicz; her brother Joe took it to the inaugural Team Autism 5K in Church Hill. I was touched beyond measure, both that he thought of me and that QACHS was involved in such an amazing program, said Kalmanowicz.
As Courageous Marks continues to be ambassadors of mental health awareness and a beacon of hope in the community, the founders want to remind others that often times people battling depression, anxiety, or any other mental health condition lose faith because of a lack of understanding of their condition or themselves, or because they don’t feel understood or supported.
One thing we can do that doesn’t cost any money is to foster faith in each other, as people in a community, as fellow human beings. Ignite someone’s faith, be their support, they said.
Don’t know how? Visit the website at courageousmarks. yolasite.com for local and national agencies that provide information and support.
Courageous Marks is a multi-faceted Community Arts Project created by four Queen Anne’s County Public School Arts Teachers to help raise mental health awareness.
Tile created by Queen Anne’s County Schools art students reads, “You are Enough”.
Art students work together to create tiles that will be left around the community to promote mental health awareness and support.