MONROE, LA – Northeast Delta Human Services Authority (NEDHSA) has adopted arts as one of its integrated health care, evidence-based prevention, communications, and treatment strategies to help serve persons with mental health, addictive disorders, and developmental disabilities.
To support this work, the agency has partnered with the Black Creatives Circle of North Louisiana (BCCNL), an artist think tank designed to nurture, encourage, and discuss art-related issues with North Louisiana artisans from the African Diaspora. BCCNL encompasses animators, cartoonists, designers, filmmakers, graphic designers, illustrators, painters, photographers, printmakers, poets, orators, screenwriters, sculptors, stylists, and writers.
Through BCCNL, NEDHSA will be establishing five murals in downtown development districts throughout the region to heal and restore the places where people live, work, play, and worship.
NEDHSA Executive Director Dr. Monteic A Sizer said the agency “intends to help make Northeast Louisiana a regional creative hub, a preferred destination that will generate much-needed regional economic development, diversity, job creation, and more.”
“We believe there is medicine in creative expression, and the arts can help a person come alive in ways traditional treatment options can’t,” Dr. Sizer said. “We intend to help create an environment where dreams are realized, families are strong, bodies are healthy, community institutions are thriving, and spirits are renewed.”
According to the Americans for the Arts, 69 percent of the United States population believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences,” 73 percent feel the arts give them “pure pleasure to experience and participate in,” and 81 percent say the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.”
In April, NEDHSA and BCCNL revealed NEDHSA’s first wall art in downtown Monroe’s Art Alley to help bring awareness and reduce mental health and addiction-related stigma.
BCCNL President Vitus Shell said murals are “direct and great ways to express a community’s concerns and needs, envisioning a new future and safer space for the people.”
“Kids and the rest of the community can see themselves in a new light,” Shell said. “Murals can enforce themes for the people and show that someone cares about their quality of life.”
Shell said BCCNL looks like the city’s majority, and “we use our voices and talent to speak up for the unheard.”
“Artists are the visionaries of our neighborhoods, so with NEDHSA, this partnership is perfect,” Shell said. “The history and mission of NEDHSA align with our goals of empowering creatives to create change in any way imaginable.”
NEDHSA has brought many art initiatives to the region, such as psychodramas, Jiggaerobics, hip hop-toprevention efforts, and partnering with arts and communications programs at regional colleges and universities. And on May 27 and 28, the agency will be presenting two free showings of “Alky-Users: An Ongoing Tragedy” at the University of Louisiana Monroe’s Brown Theatre beginning at 7 p.m. each night.
In December 2021, NEDHSA sponsored a mural created by the University of Louisiana Monroe Honors Art Class and the Art & Entrepreneurship Class that was designed and created as a public art project to inspire ULM students to seek help, destigmatize seeking help, and provide solutions to help overcome mental health issues. Since then, the agency has displayed the mural at the Northeast Louisiana Delta African American Heritage Museum in Monroe, Union Museum of History & Art in Farmerville, Madison Parish High School in Tallulah, and the Chennault Aviation Museum in Monroe.
Dr. Sizer said art could be that spark that further “ignites better regional population health, racial unity, economic opportunities for all, and pride in where we call home.”
“It’s our time to create a place we are all proud of, a place where we foster hope and opportunities for all, Dr. Sizer said. “There is no better time than now. This is our now time.”