The following is a transcript written by Spiderweb co-founder courtney marie, approved by our You Are Here committee - which consists of DMAC members, Spiderweb artists, and local mental health professionals - and presented at Denton’s City Council Meeting on July 9, 2019 by Petra Kelly on behalf of the group.
DMAC is a 501C3 nonprofit established in 2017 run by dedicated members of the Denton community who seek to improve the lives of local artists by offering subsidized healthcare coverage. Spiderweb Salon is a prolific DIY art collective based in Denton of over 100 current members, whose collective work of seven years involves events, recordings, publications, and workshops that encourage collaboration, compassion, and curiosity within the community.
A year ago members of DMAC and Spiderweb Salon formed a committee to address the mental health needs of local creatives. Our concern was born from personal and first-hand experience witnessing friends, family, and peers deal with difficult issues. Even with insurance (which many of us do not have), being able to afford therapy can be a burden on individuals who are already struggling with the rising housing market and lack of institutional support for artists in Denton.
The two organizations have been meeting monthly to work on the project since last summer. DMAC is handling the primary logistics, while Spiderweb Salon is assisting with fundraising, connecting local artists to the resources, and providing a collection of relevant supplemental materials and resources online and in print.
The project is called You Are Here, and there are two operational aspects. The first is a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) certified peer-led mental health support group, operated by trained volunteers on a weekly basis. The mission of this group is to provide a safe and supportive environment open to artists, writers, and musicians who live in Denton to address personal and collective issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, and grief in our community. For this part of the project, we require a large meeting space, preferably near Downtown (accessible by pubic transit) and secluded enough to promote anonymity, to conduct the weekly meeting. We have already reached out to GDAC, who gave us very few options that were not ideal and far out of our budget. We have ruled out utilizing a private practice or MHMR to conduct these meetings. We request that the City might help us in this matter, as there are surely resources unknown to us that might be utilized.
The second aspect of the project is to provide subsided counseling/therapy for qualifying individuals who identify as artists, musicians, or writers. To qualify, individuals must submit an application to DMAC verifying their needs and financial situation, and in turn, DMAC will connect them with a licensed professional and provide no less than 8 weeks and up to 12 weeks of weekly sessions. Our hope is to work with licensed counselors who are open to around $50 per session, which means we will require approximately $400-600 per individual accepted. The more funds we raise and the more financial support we can rally from the City, local organizations, and businesses, the more people we can help. We would like to request the City allocate monetary resources to this project.
Though City entities like to boast a thriving creative scene, the truth is many of us are quite literally struggling to survive on a daily basis. The suicide rate in Denton County has been steadily rising since 2014, and though we have no specific data on how many of those deaths were by individuals who identify as an artist, you would be hard pressed to find a creative in our community-- the very same community creating the culture that Denton depends on to shape the “personality” of our city--who is not personally affected by depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, and/or other serious health concerns. There is currently nothing in place by the City to financially assist local artists in regard to their housing, mental health, primary healthcare, career development, or other basic needs, which are all tied to an individual’s overallwell-being. DMAC is an excellent example of the community coming together to help itself, but we feel it’s time for the City of Denton to take some responsibility for the communities that represent the heartbeat of this city. We hope you will assist us with this project and consider working more closely with local creatives to form other initiatives that can work to boost the creative economy of Denton by directly supporting artists and art organizations. It is time.