Suicide awareness mural draws community artists to memorialize loved ones

Suicide awareness and prevention mural along Keowee Street in Dayton. STAFF

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Suicide awareness and prevention mural along Keowee Street in Dayton. STAFF

Community members took to Keowee Street in Dayton on Sunday to paint the empty pages of the Love You Mural to honor and remember those who have attempted or died by suicide.

The Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley’s Miracle Clubhouse, a community resource for people recovering from mental illness, partnered with Tiffany Clark and Leslea Hipp of the Mural Machine to create the mural along Keowee Street. Along both walls, the Mural Machine painted hundreds of empty pages for people to fill in with their own memorials. Clark said people as far as California have come out to contribute to the mural.

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Community members painting on the suicide awareness and prevention mural on Keowee Street in Dayton. STAFF

Community members painting on the suicide awareness and prevention mural on Keowee Street in Dayton. STAFF

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Community members painting on the suicide awareness and prevention mural on Keowee Street in Dayton. STAFF

Clark began the mural five years ago after losing a loved one to suicide. She said working on the project has been a sort of therapy for her, but community members have also shared with her how the mural has helped them feel loved and valued.

“People have come up to me and have told me about how when they saw the “Love You [Mural]” that it stopped them from a sad choice,” Clark said.

The wall heading south down Keowee street toward Third Street is dedicated to people who have been lost to suicide. Miracle Clubhouse reached out to Clark to start a mural on the northbound wall for those who are struggling with mental illness and to bring about suicide awareness.

ExploreSuicide prevention art mural to be dedicated this weekend

The survivor side of the mural features large butterflies inspired by the monarch migration in Dayton and symbolizes “the metamorphosis out of the sadness of loss into more life,” according to Clark. Dragonflies— the symbol of the Miracle Clubhouse— are interlaced with the butterflies.

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Suicide awareness and prevention mural along Keowee Street in Dayton. STAFF

Suicide awareness and prevention mural along Keowee Street in Dayton. STAFF

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Suicide awareness and prevention mural along Keowee Street in Dayton. STAFF

The memorial side is painted with a galaxy, which takes on its own meaning, too.

“It says ‘only in the darkness can you see the stars,’” Clark said. “We thought of each individual soul as a star.”

An accompanying art show, including music and spoken word hosted by the Miracle Clubhouse, celebrated life and allowed the community to share testimony about how mental illness and suicide have personally affected them.

The project was funded by Culture Works and the Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District Special Projects Grant, and has been a community work-in-progress over the past few years.

“We were so excited to be able to reconvene today and be able to work on it,” said Kathy Trick, Miracle Clubhouse program coordinator. “Really, its about celebrating, memorializing and loving the individuals we’ve lost and then celebrating and loving the individuals that are still here.”

To learn more about the Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley Miracle Clubhouse, visit their website at gesmv.org/community-programs/behavioral-health/miracle-clubhouse.

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