I Still Matter is a grassroots organization of volunteers who are living with mental illness or have loved ones who are. The organization was founded by Carmen Joyce, executive director, who moved to Jacksonville from Central Florida in 2011. During that time, she was struggling with manic depression and grieving the loss of her father.
“I knew I needed to pull myself out of my isolation, so I asked a few friends to meet me at Chamblin’s Uptown to make art. I Still Matter’s focus on mental health came from the real, honest conversations from individuals attending the small groups,” says Joyce.
Carmen Joyce has a Master of Arts degree in Counseling from Webster University and a Bachelor of Science with a double major in Sociology and Criminology from Florida Southern College. Working in the field of mental health for over fifteen years, she understands the relationship between art and healing: Creating art in groups helps with resilience and stress reduction, encourages positive communication skills and sociability, encourages the exploration of difficult emotions and self-awareness. Additionally, art heals trauma and promotes healthy coping skills.
“After the loss of my father, I cried daily for three years,” Joyce says. “I had been on medication in my twenties, and ended up getting off because I thought ‘I can do this myself.’ So, I changed my diet. Started cycling and tried to do things the ‘natural’ way. I think the loss of my father triggered my depression and it took medication for me to be able to function. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but it’s a part of my personal story. When I meet with people through I Still Matter I can relate to those who do not want to take meds and the ones that are on them. I don’t judge their experiences because when it comes to mental health, one size doesn’t fit all.”
She continues, “I started asking . . . am I truly listening to others and their stories? Am I making time for people? How could I marry my love of art and community?” That’s when Joyce decided to create the I Still Color coloring book.
I Still Color is a coloring book with a compilation of images from fifty local and global contemporary artists from America, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, South Korea, Japan, Ghana and the Czech Republic. Each page is unique, perforated, with one image per sheet and printed locally in Jacksonville. Proceeds from the coloring book support weekly art groups for individuals living with mental illness, along with their family members, friends, loved ones and advocates. Local artists include Dustin Harewood, whose coral reef work was inspired by the submerged landscape just off the shorelines of Barbados. “I am a big fan of Carmen; she has a big heart. When she asked me to participate I couldn’t say no. I hope that my small contribution helped the cause,” says Harewood. Other artists include Hank Champion, local illustrator and author; Sherri Owens, graphic designer, who designed the cover and layout of the book; Jacksonville’s Kyle Robert Willis, and Kelly Johnson of Neptune Beach.
By Jim Alabiso