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Young N.H. artists find solace in each other’s work at mental health art show

dobra and mom.jpg
Alli Fam
Mars Dobra and his mother admire the work of other young artists at the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry.

A blue face with pupil-less, dripping gray eyes sticks out its tongue. On the tongue rests a small orange and gray pill, the same colors that burst from the figure's head.

dobra art
Alli Fam
Mars Dobra's painting titled Pharmaceutical Haze

This striking painting is the work of Mars Dobra, who attends Granite State Art Academy in Salem. It’s also the teen's submission to the Magnify Voices Expressive Arts Contest.

The painting, Dobra explained, is based on his own complicated relationship with taking medication for depression.

“At first I thought it [the medication] was going to be like a cure-all,” Dobra said. “But now I've learned that it's a process. You have to also go to therapy and get better physically and mentally to really be in a better place.”

While he was proud of his own piece, Dobra found it meaningful to be in an exhibition with other artists who shared some of his experiences. All submissions were based on the artists experiences navigating mental health challenges. Dobra said he loved the feeling of reading a poem, and thinking, oh yeah, I get that.

Student artists shared some of their most vulnerable moments in their art and on stage at the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry Wednesday evening.

One artist wrote about how painful it can be to have classmates make fun of their anxiety and depression.

The Magnify Voices contest was created in 2019 by member of an organization called NH Children’s System of Care. Founders hope the contest can draw attention to the inadequacies in New Hampshire's behavioral health system.

For some artists, proudly showing their work was a way to combat the pervasive stigma that often follows those living with a mental health condition.

Lillian Bittman stands in a dark room wearing a white cardigan.
Alli Fam
Lillian Bittman of Concord was one of the finalists.

Lillian Bittman, 18, of Concord wrote about how her hospitalization last year was a catalyst for the realization that being alone is not synonymous with being lonely.

Bittman said she tries to be open about her mental health in her day to day life.

“It’s not something we need to be ashamed of,” she said.

Listen to the audio to hear Lillian Bittman sharing her work. 

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