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Friday October 24th 2014

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Cafés, Art and Recovery

By Jessica Forbes

Small, vividly painted canvases are becoming emblematic of the art of Café PERC, an art therapy program at Baptist Hospital’s Lakeview Center.

The program, in its first year, welcomes those suffering from mental illness, providing a safe and friendly place to spend time. Many often discover previously unknown artistic talents while at the café, which offers a variety of art classes throughout the week.

Café PERC provides free coffee, art supplies, and Internet access to consumers, the term for those utilizing Lakeview’s services. As of May 2013, the program logged approximately 500 consumer visits each month.

The “PERC” in the title stands for “Peer Education and Resource Community.”

Ellen Peppler, a client advocate who has worked at Lakeview for over 17 years, said at a show in early May, “The ‘C,’ or community, is the most important component of the program. Due to the stigmatization of mental illnesses, many people suffering with a mental illness often isolate themselves.”

Peppler said the Café PERC center has a “Cheers” quality, in that the staff and volunteers are able greet people coming through the door by name, an unusual occurrence for many of the program’s consumers.

“Recovery equals healing,” said Peppler, who also emphasized that recovery is often possible when quality of life is improved, community being a large part of the equation.

Carlos Goebels is one of several artists who volunteers time to teach at Café PERC. Goebels has volunteered since October 2012, teaching painting, and began organizing public art shows in February.

“On a rainy February morning, we wound up selling over 40 pieces,” said Goebels of the program’s first show in early 2013. That event, held at the Activity Center at Lakeview, was followed by another successful showing at Open Books in May.

Over the past several months, Goebels began frequenting the new Bodega International Market and Café, and noticed the business, a restaurant and store, would make a good gallery space. Goebels shared stories about Café PERC with the owners and the restaurant is now displaying 25 pieces from the program’s artists-consumers, and will host a fundraiser for the program this Saturday.

Bodega Café is donating the food and drinks for the reception, and all proceeds from ticket sales go to Café PERC. For a donation of $10, guests can treat themselves to appetizers and drinks from the café’s menu of Central and South American cuisine.

In addition, art will be on display and available for purchase during the restaurant and shop’s regular hours, Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Proceeds from the sale of individual pieces support both Café PERC and the artists. The program treats sales as a gallery would, with 20 percent of the sale price going to the program, and 80 percent to the artist.

“It means so much for the clients to see their paintings up and on display in the community,” said Goebels, noting, “Many individuals with a mental illness have issues with self-esteem, they’ve been knocked around … this provides a great encouragement.”

Goebels notes that many of the program consumers are low-income or indigent, and receiving an extra bit of cash for their art is not only exciting, but also a financial help.

Lakeview Center is a nonprofit facility that served over 35,500 clients in 2012, 76 percent through mental health service programs. Café PERC is unique in that it offers a non-traditional therapy and a place to build relationships with fellow consumers and Peer Specialists.

Peer Specialists working at Café PERC are staff and volunteers who can relate to consumers on a personal level with their own experiences with mental illness.

Goebels himself was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the late 1980s, which in the past resulted in bouts with severe depression. Goebels sought treatment at Lakeview Center seven years ago while uninsured, and remained active in the Lakeview community, speaking at meetings, and now volunteers teaching art to give back.

Long interested in art and design, Goebels remembers, “I’ve had a paintbrush in my hand in one way or another since I was three years old.” Goebels says it is uplifting to see people, many of whom have never painted before, tapping into artistic talent.

“I was drawn to the program because painting for me has been extremely therapeutic in my own recovery,” Goebels recalled a time when SAD affected his career in corporate human resources management, “being able to share that with other people has been very meaningful.”

CAFÉ PERC RECEPTION AND ART SHOW
WHAT: Benefit for Lakeview Center’s Café PERC Mental Health Recovery Program
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 8
WHERE: Bodega International Market & Café, 3041 E. Olive Rd.
COST: $10 Donation (Advance reservations required, event limited to 50)
DETAILS:  For more information and/or to reserve tickets, e-mail carlosgoebels@yahoo.com