MEDFORD, Ore. – Rachel Miller spray-paints her latest street art design on a canvas in preparation for her gallery debut. Today she’s proudly displaying the art that got her through one of the most painful times of her life just over three years ago.
“I lost my sister to suicide on October 4th of 2010, and it was rough,” said Miller. “It still is rough.”
Miller is one of the many kids and young adults to find solace through the LifeArt program, a service that uses artistic exploration and mentorship to rescue kids from suicide.
“I think art gives me the ability to get things out that I can’t say, and be able to sleep at night,” said Miller.
Now their work and struggle are reaching more eyes than ever. Thanks to a partnership with OnTrack and Providence Medical Center, the LifeArt program is moving from garage to gallery.
“Now it gives the kids a home,” said LifeArt founder Phil Ortega. “That gives them the opportunity to build conversation that helps them move in a direction together.”
That opportunity is especially important in Jackson County. The suicide rate in the county is higher than anywhere else in Oregon, and nearly doubles the national average. Not coincidentally, substance abuse also exceeds state averages for all grades.
Experts say it’s a two-part problem that deserves a two-part solution.
“Sometimes these kids need clinical support and our kids need the mentoring and the creative outlet, so it’s just a perfect union,” said Rita Sullivan, Executive Director of OnTrack.
Now that union has become a second home for artists like Miller to practice their craft, and to do it among others who have shared the same journey.
“It’s heart breaking because then you know they’re in pain,” said Miller. “But at least you’re not in pain alone.”
Thanks to a donation from the Providence Medical Center, the LifeTrack gallery will stay for the next two years.