Story by Misty Jackson-Miller. Photos courtesy of Foundation 45.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidial thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also reach the National Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 at any time.
More locally, you can connect with trained volunteers at the Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas at 214-828-1000. Their hotline is open 24/7.
In case of emergency, call 911.
In the heart of Deep Ellum, small support groups of musicians and artists regularly meet at Common Desk to talk about their mental health. Topics can range from post-tour depression to the anxiety that comes with booking gigs at bars and clubs while recovering from addiction. Each artist brings their own particular set of experiences to these groups, but in the process of seeking support, they create a strong sense of community.
These sessions, dubbed “Interludes,” are organized and funded by Foundation 45, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote strong mental health and suicide prevention in the creative community. After all, many artists don’t have access to quality, affordable health care. And for some, there is that nagging, persistent fear that seeking help for addiction or depression might negatively impact the quality of an artist’s work. But by providing free support groups, called Interludes, led by carefully vetted, licensed professional counselors, Foundation 45 is removing barriers to access and making a huge difference in the lives of many artists.
“We are not your normal non-profit,” says Executive Director and CEO Lauren O’Connor. “Foundation 45 is very bold. It’s non-judgemental. We are here for the creative community—for musicians and artists and chefs. We want to speak their language.”
Lauren has been a volunteer with Foundation 45 from the beginning. A Delaware native, she’s seen firsthand the devastation caused by the opioid epidemic, and before joining Foundation 45, eight people in her life had died by suicide. So for Lauren, the mission of the organization is one she is passionate about. “This organization has helped me cope with my own losses,” she says, “and it gives people a chance to know they’re not alone. I am so honored to be a part of it.”
Lauren took up the leadership role of the organization in 2018, when founder Anthony Delabano announced he was stepping down. As the former drummer of Spector 45, Delabano created Foundation 45 as a tribute to the memory of his former band members, Frankie Campagna and Adam Carter—two childhood friends who had died by suicide within weeks of each other in 2011.
Since its founding in 2016, the growth of Foundation 45 has “snowballed in a very good way,” says Lauren. “We are a group full of passionate people, and we are proud of what we have accomplished. We have the strongest board, the best counselors, and we are dedicated to breaking the stigma of mental illness.”
Currently, Foundation 45 now has five fully-licensed counselors on staff, funds four Interlude sessions at three different locations, and provides a free session of art therapy with a trained art therapist the last Saturday of every month (ages 18 and up). Foundation 45 has also produced a video series known as “B-Sides” which feature a variety of musicians who candidly discuss their journey to better mental health.
Lauren says that their success is due to the partnerships they have within the arts community —“community is what helps us grow.” Common Desk, for example, provides the space for the Interlude sessions in comfortable rooms that comply with HIPPA privacy guidelines. For the Art of the Guitar exhibition, 45 guitars were donated and decorated by local artists, which were then auctioned off. Events like the Deep Ellum Arts Festival are always welcome spaces for Foundation 45’s tabling events—for selling merchandise and distributing marketing materials.
“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have an organization,” says Lauren. “I can’t thank the [arts] community enough. They have been nothing but supportive of what we do, for giving us the space to provide information to artists who may be struggling.”
This year, Foundation 45 will be the beneficiary of Art Con, an organization which brings together artists and musicians to raise funds for regional causes that are dear to the creative community. Their signature event is scheduled for November 7th, and proceeds from the art auction will go directly to Foundation 45. With a boost from Art Con, Foundation 45 will be able to expand its counseling programs and reach a broader audience throughout the metroplex.
Not only are they working on establishing a presence in Denton, but Lauren also mentioned that they are developing an Interlude session which is specific to addiction recovery. They also plan to organize more therapy sessions, to provide individuals with more “healthy ways of outletting,” says Lauren. “We want to pull you out of the darkness. We want to be the light.”
As Foundation 45 continues to grow, they are bringing more visibility to the issue of mental health in the arts community. For far too long, melancholy and mental illness have been baked into the romanticized myth of The Artist–that great artists go to dark places for the sake of their art. It often comes with a cultural shrug: that’s just how it’s been, and that’s how it will always be. But if it is true that “all art is subversive,” as Pablo Picasso says, then by challenging these dangerous stereotypes, Foundation 45 is endeavoring to create the most vital art of all: community, with a message of hope.
To find out how you can support Foundation 45, check out their website at foundation45.org You can also find additional information on their website regarding support group schedules and community resources.
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