Chelton Loft Chosen to Participate in NYC Mural Arts Project to Reduce Stigma of Mental Illness

Artist Kristy MarCarthy shows a mural draft to attendees at the community event.
Charlene Niles, Chelton Loft Assistant Director; Kristy McCarthy, artist; Suzanne Stoute, Chelton Loft Program Director
Artist Kristy McCarthy and Peer Specialist Felix Guzman discussing mural at community event.

Chelton Loft, a Psychosocial Clubhouse for adults living with serious mental illness has been selected to participate in the innovative New York City Mural Arts Project (NYCMAP).

The project is a collaboration between Chelton Loft, a part of Wildcat Services Corporation, and NYCMAP, a program of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH) that uses the collaborative mural-making process to discuss mental health and foster new relationships in NYC communities. It works with community-based organizations, artists, people living with a mental health condition, and the community at large to promote mental health awareness and break down stigmas associated with mental illness.

Over the course of the six-month project, art workshops are held at Chelton Loft and interspersed with events held in the community, said Suzanne Stoute, Chelton Loft Director. The workshops and events include discussions about peoples’ experiences with stigma around mental illness.

NYCMAP provides a mural artist and a peer with lived mental health experience to lead discussions and develop a theme for the mural. Chelton Loft was chosen among numerous community mental health provider applicants to participate in NYCMAP. At an event on March 21 at EL Barrio’s Artspace, community members were invited to see the artist’s sketch of the mural, provide feedback and to learn more about Chelton Loft.

The ideas for the mural have been contributed by Chelton Loft members, about 15 of whom are participating in the project. The final design will be revealed at its official unveiling at the end of June in East Harlem. The mural will feature scenes reflective of healing, and of the spirit of tolerance, inclusion and support that defines the East Harlem community. It will be 25 ft. x 46 ft. and painted on polytab (also known as parachute cloth).

Chelton Loft, located in East Harlem, has been operating for over 35 years and is accredited by Clubhouse International, which works to strengthen and expand clubhouses worldwide. Clubhouses assist adults living with mental illness to promote their recovery and reintegration into a meaningful role in community life. This is accomplished through the provision of self-help, empowerment interventions, community living, and academic, vocational or leisure time rehabilitation.

The NYCMAP project has had a profound and positive impact on clubhouse members, spurring powerful discussions of the nature and prevalence of mental illness, and inspiring Clubhouse members to create art, some for the first time.

“The event at EL Barrio’s Artspace was positive and fun. Members have reported several interesting takeaways including the discussion around the statistic that 1 in 5 adults have a diagnosable mental illness and a chance to share their talents and skills with the larger Harlem community,” Suzanne said. “It is having a big impact on our members by reminding them that their voices are heard. It is also attracting members of the community, young and old, to learn more about the work of Chelton Loft.”