Artist explores complexities of mental illness

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Savanna Vincent, a 2020 graduate of De Smet High School, has left her mark in the halls of DHS. As part of her senior experience Capstone project, Vincent began creating a mural in the school that depicts the complexities of mental health.

The project came about when Vincent was considering a career in art therapy. Part of her project included a work-study with Lisa Brunick, a Sioux Falls art therapist who works with at-risk youth. Vincent traveled to Sioux Falls three times at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year to work in the field with Brunick.

Vincent said she still wants to keep creating art and is planning to study psychology this fall at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. However, she isn’t sure if she still wants to go into art therapy.

De Smet High School Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, Jacqueline Rosado, helped guide Vincent as part of an independent study class, as well as her art teacher and mentor, April Rusche.

Vincent began work on her mural at the beginning of the second semester. She didn’t want anyone to see it until she was finished, so the work was covered most of the time. When COVID-19 shut down the school and she wasn’t able to be inside the building, her work was put on hold for a while. Vincent was able to get back into the school a few weeks ago and complete it. The image depicts many emotions, good and bad, and includes the words used to describe the five stages of grief; “denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and, finally, acceptance.”

“Hands on either end are ripping away, pulling back a barrier to reveal the good stuff,” she said.

Behind the barrier are many symbols, from serious to whimsical. There is a bridge, a tree with rope and caterpillars and butterflies that Vincent said represent becoming your better self.

“It’s simple enough that people can form their own interpretations,” she explained.

Vincent used regular semigloss latex paint for the mural. She said she got a good deal on the 15 cans of paint from Trustworthy Hardware. Castlerock Construction sponsored the project, and she said she was also grateful for the school custodians who “may have” helped her clean up a mess from spilled paint.

Rusche and Vincent said the project changed and evolved as time went on, and the finished product was not what it started out as.

“It definitely was eye-opening for her,” Rusche said, “and a way for her to best convey her message through images. That’s kind of how art works.”

Vincent filmed her progress, which can now be seen on her Instagram account, savs.art816.

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