Lucia De Giovanni Photography

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© Lucia De Giovanni, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication and/or distribution, publication or social media use of this material and photographs without express and written permission from Lucia De Giovanni is strictly prohibited.

September 21, 2017

Journey from Addiction to Recovery

I am proud to say that Denver Arts & Venues is committed to Diversity, Inclusiveness and Equity in all our programs. Denver Health Occupational Behavioral Health Services (OBHS) @ Methadone Clinic is one of the most meaningful and significant mural project that I have managed in my career as Public Art Administrator for Denver’s Public Art Program. My vision initially was to simply create uplifting and beautifying murals at this clinic. Working side by side with local artist Frank Garza and Photojournalist Lucia De Giovanni has totally exceeded my expectations for this site. Frank Garza’s mural concepts are much more meaningful and thought provoking than what I envisioned. Frank's mural designs capture the essence of the caring and meaningful hard work that the staff provides to their patients on a daily basis. The staff and patient relationship is so impressive, as it is built on much care and time spent together. Frank's murals has birthed the significance of my vision “Journey from Addiction to Recovery” in this realistic and meaningful project. ~ Mary Valdez  

I wanted to start this blog post with a quote from Mary Valdez this morning, to bring you into this journey from the perspective of someone who has been a champion for the Arts in Denver, someone who knows what it can bring to the Soul of the viewer, but also the maker.  From this point of view, let me guide you through the second workshop held at Denver Health OBHS, which I am documenting for the City and County of Denver's Public Art Program.  (If you fancy a reading about the first one, please click here)

My day started, as usual, at 5AM, when the Blue Jay family living in the tree right outside my bedroom window decides it's time for the whole neighborhood to wake up (have you ever heard a Blue Jay call?  Nobody can sleep through that). 

I arrived at the clinic and was pleasantly surprised by the energy of the place.  In the two weeks since our first workshop, Frank had pretty much transformed the first floor.

I couldn't help but notice how the clinic "felt" different.  On my first visit there, I was struck by the juxtaposition of the nurturing nature of the staff and the sterile environment, void of personal expression of care and welcome.  It just didn't represent the people I met who work in the clinic every day, who are some of the most caring, devoted, funny individuals I have ever met.  I heard laughter, people were hugging goodbye in the hallway, giving each other comforting words.  A kind person held the door open for me as I carried my gear inside, smiled and waved goodbye as he left.  

This was the first time I would actually get to officially meet some of the patients, and I was a bit nervous.  Anxious, really, from a place of concern for recording something with my camera which could be interpreted in a negative way.  That is not my intent, not at all.  I wanted to show people as the wonderful human beings they are, full of light and the incredible strength it takes to overcome addiction.  

The workshop started - Frank explained his vision for the murals and how they would take shape along the walls of the clinic.  Caterpillars, butterflies, lotus flowers, the symbolism in those images would carry forth a message of rebirth, inspiring each person walking through the clinic.  This is a Journey, one that can be visualized in many ways, so why not in the most beautiful of ways?  We are surrounded by negativity in the news, in our daily lives, almost every minute of the day one can find heaviness, if you so choose.  And when you are struggling with something heavy, the pressure of it can make it hard to breathe.  

But the workshop is held in a bright room, where judgments are not allowed, where people work side by side to help create something beautiful, where everyone is welcome to express their light and encouraging words about their work of art translate to encouraging words for their life struggle.  This is a safe place.

The view from one of the windows - I never noticed that the Denver Health sign is the exact same blue as the sky in Colorado.  

The first workshop's "goodies" - all cut, packed and ready for the next installation.  I can't wait to see this one!

Nurses, staff members, counselors and patients, side by side, just happy to be.

Sometimes, the hands are not as steady, but where there's a will, there's a way.

After a little while, people in the room started to feel cheerful, exchanging jokes, cracking up laughing... I heard it mentioned,  "it's like kindergarten".  I guess that's the most appropriate description - where people feel safe, playful.  Maybe there are issues out there, but not in this room, not now.  Right now it's about togetherness, creating and laughing.  Right now it's about talking about families and telling stories about babies.

Right now it's about calling your Mom to let her know you're coloring and you're happy, in this moment.  

Right now it's about eating candy for lunch.  Yes, there were some "healthy treats", but really, it's there, it's calling my name, I had to.

Right now it's about writing down what your goals are, what makes you feel inspired, what you think might help someone who is thinking about recovery as the mountain that can never be conquered.  Right now is about showing up, doing the work, and being grateful we're standing on that mountain with a group of people that are there to help you climb it, every single step of the way.

This project has the ability to change lives, just as the wonderful people of Denver Health do every day.  I am getting to know some of the patients, and I have their permission to photograph them, mention some of their struggles and victories.  As I ease into this Journey in the only way I know how, I hope in reading this blog you will give yourself the time to breathe with me, hope with me, and love all people with respect.  And the next time you see someone in need of help, maybe you'll reach out to them and let them know someone cares.  


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