Show Will Run May 17 – May 31, During Mental Health Month

Namasta Conner says of being an artist, “It is one part of who I am, just like my mental illness.” Conner’s mixed media on plywood piece titled Descent has been chosen as the featured work for Transitions-Mental Health Association’s 2012 Opening Minds art show.

Opening Minds is a community art show in celebration of living mentally well. The Opening Minds art show was first developed in 1995 to offer people with mental illness a way to express themselves and to provide a venue to share art, feelings and thoughts with the general public. The 2012 show has expanded to include the entire mental health community: those in recovery, their family and friends, service providers and more. TMHA’s goal remains the same today: to help the community see that people should not be defined in terms of their illness but by their strengths, gifts and by the contributions they make to society.

Conner’s pieces and over 100 other works will be on display at 1306 Nipomo Street on the corner of Nipomo and Pacific Streets in San Luis Obispo from May 17 to 31, 2012. An opening reception will be held Wednesday, May 16, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The show is open daily from noon to 6 p.m. The reception and show are open and free to the public.

The deadline for submitting art work to the Opening Minds show is Monday, April 30th. “People of all ages from the mental health community are invited to submit entries of artistic expression to the 2012 Opening Minds Art Show,” said show coordinator Meghan Walters.

This year’s featured artist, Namasta Conner, 36, grew up on the Central Coast and then moved to the Bay Area at the age of 18. She and her husband Brandon moved back to the area five years ago and now live in the North County with their daughters Zaylie, 4.5, and Zinnia, born earlier this year.

Since high school, Conner had noticed severe mood swings and as a result, experimented with drugs and alcohol. About ten years ago she started deteriorating after a long-term relationship came to an end. “Our break up was amiable but the aftermath was not what I expected and I was not able to process the end of the relationship. Once I was alone I started to lose my mind. I hadn’t realized how much I had depended on him for my emotional stability. Then the drinking started to take over. I medicated the sense of loneliness and experienced more intense mood swings. I eventually ended up in the hospital and with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder type II.”

Conner said that she saw the Opening Minds flyer posted at the SLO County Mental Health Clinic in Atascadero. “I always have my eye out for submission opportunities and I already had the art work to fit the theme of this show. It seemed like a perfect opportunity and now I am motivated to create more pieces for the show. In the past I have typically created art work during a manic phase. I don’t have any art showing exuberance, which I find to be ironic.”

The Opening Minds Art Show will take place at the future site of TMHA’s Nipomo Street Studios and SLO Wellness Center located at 1306 Nipomo Street in San Luis Obispo. Over the next year TMHA will develop eight new studios to provide permanent affordable housing for adult men or women who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, and in recovery from mental illness.

The renovation process, set to begin in July after the art show, will involve substantial new construction inside the existing 4-bedroom, 2-bath home where the original façade will be preserved. “Reconfiguration of the home will accommodate two studio units and a Wellness Center while retaining the classic vintage architecture of the area,” said Denise Rea, Division Director of Housing and Support Services at TMHA. “The construction of a new building will provide six additional studio units while accommodating space for tenant parking.”

Services to residents will be provided on-site at the Wellness and Peer-Run Self-Advocacy Center and in collaboration with SLOBHD. “Support services will focus on assisting each resident to retain their housing and support their recovery and resiliency thereby maximizing their ability to live and work in the community,” said Rea. “Specific strategies will be utilized to promote respect, acceptance, dignity and social inclusion for each resident.”

This year, the SLO Wellness Centers and The Peer Advisory and Advocacy Team are supporting the Opening Minds Art Show as sponsors, leaders and volunteers. Opening Minds is presented by Transitions-Mental Health Association and San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health Services. The show is funded by the Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63).


Transitions-Mental Health Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating stigma and promoting recovery and wellness for people with mental illness through work, housing, community and family support services. TMHA operates 27 programs at over 35 locations that reach over 2,000 people and 1,500 families in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. The emphasis of TMHA’s many services is to teach vital independent living skills, and build a framework for community re-entry through personal empowerment and hands on experience. For over 30 years, TMHA has been dedicated to providing housing, employment, case management and life-skills support to teens and adults with mental illness; and support, resources and education for their loved ones. For more information, visit