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Ridge High School Art Students, the Alhamra ART Center and Community in Crisis Collaborate to Produce the ‘STIGMA’ Exhibit.

On June 14th, 2017, from 6:00- 8:00pm, Ridge High School art students will host an opening reception for their exhibition, STIGMA, at the Alhamra ART Center at 21 Claremont Rd, Bernardsville NJ. Refreshments will be served and student musicians and vocalists will perform during the reception. The exhibition will run from June 12th – July 14th, 2017 and all members of the community are invited.

The students’ art is inspired by the themes of mental health, addiction and recovery and is the culmination of three free workshops offered by gallery owner, artist and neurologist, Dr. Arshia Qasim. As a volunteer for Community in Crisis and, in the wake of recent tragedies in the Somerset Hills area, Dr. Qasim proposed the idea of providing students with a creative outlet to express their emotions around the topic of mental health: she is an expert on the effects of art on brain development and rehabilitation, and helps families and individuals who are suffering to use art and creativity to find the path to healing. Leading the project from the high school were seniors Vanessa Wilkes and Isabel Pardo, both RHS AP art students, with the support of fine arts teacher, Ms. Wendell Jeffrey.

“Personally for me, this has been incredibly inspiring and rewarding. The kids are full of ideas and energy and that’s very contagious,” said Qasim. “They were all fully engaged in the workshops which instinctively meant that it was a topic they needed. [ ]…following our discussion of mental health, one of the kids said he’d be interested in including a workshop on ‘identity’ and what that means to teens. Wendell has been a wonderful resource. She has a great working relationship with the kids and they form a good team. I like how the students took ownership of the various aspects of this project.”

Jody D’Agostini, Chair of Community in Crisis added, “We kept hearing that the students in our community were hurting and that they needed some sort of psychological outlet for their stress, pain and grief. This was a perfect collaboration which was predominantly driven by the students themselves. We hope to continue this each year – it’s has been a wonderful success and we are very grateful to Dr. Qasim for her passion, expertise and generosity.”

Community in Crisis is a 501(c)(3) coalition of concerned citizens, community agencies, organizations, schools, churches and law enforcement that is made up of seven working groups with a mission to create a community united in fighting the heroin/opiate crisis by reducing substance abuse, removing the stigma of addiction and preventing overdose deaths. Each of the working groups is charged with an action plan that has been designed based on the evidence-based NJ Governor’s 2014 report, ‘Confronting New Jersey’s NEW Drug Problem: A Strategic Action Plan to Address a Burgeoning Heroin/Opiate Epidemic Among Adolescents and Young Adults.’

For more information or to get involved, please contact or visit