BECKLEY, W.V. (LOOTPRESS) – Chili Night is going to look a little different this year. As residents and visitors roam the streets of Beckley during one of the city’s busiest events, they will be able to view the artwork and hear the story of recovering addicts.
Stephanie French, director of the Raleigh County Prevention Coalition, says the show will be called “Art to Recovery” as it focuses on the talents of those who have struggled with addiction in the past.
In May of 2021, the Raleigh County Prevention Coalition gathered up its volunteers and set up various Narcan distribution sites across the county.
French, who acted as a site leader during the event, was disheartened to hear people in the community voice negativity about those in recovery or those trying to reach recovery.
“People were saying awful things,” French shared. “Narcan for some people really does work, and it may take once, five times or a dozen times but everyone, if they want help, is going to get help. That is why we distribute the Narcan.”
French says she cannot make people understand that a lot of those who pick up Narcan at the distribution events aren’t addicts themselves.
“It’s a parent, or a grandparent, or a sibling or a friend of someone that is addicted. They come because they don’t want their loved ones to die. That’s what people need to understand. We all matter to someone, and we all matter to God.”
She also can’t get people to understand what their words can do to someone in recovery.
“They have to know that people are there wanting to help them. Nobody wakes up one morning and says, ‘I’m going to smoke some heroin today.’ No one starts that way. Whether they started using drugs socially or medically…they don’t want to be addicted, but they can’t help it. Yes, it is a choice at first, but then, after a while, that sickness just takes over.”
Disappointed in what she heard as the distribution event, French decided to host the art show to help spread the message of those currently in recovery, as well as educate people on addiction.
“Until we can educate ourselves fully and understand how drug addictions start and what people go through in addiction and educate ourselves on how to stop and prevent addiction, we have to have another resource out there for people to go to. That is what we don’t have enough of.”
The show is open to anyone in active recovery who can draw, paint, photograph, or sculpt.
“They can use all those art mediums and put to paper how they felt in addiction and what it feels like now in recovery,” French shared. “It will put a face to recovery and show what these people are doing for the community, how they are part of the community and how talented they really are.”
The artwork, according to French, will decorate business windows downtown, be set up on easels along the sidewalk and in Shoemaker’s square- everywhere and anywhere that the art can be displayed.
The artists will share their testimony which, along with a short bio, will be attached to the art so people can learn their stories.
French has already collected some pieces and says no artwork will be rejected. Artists have until September 17 to turn in their work.
“There’s no age limit; no criteria. It doesn’t have to be ‘accepted.’ We are putting all of them in the show- every single piece.”
While the event will highlight the path of some’s journey to recovery, peer recovery specialists will also be on the ground during Chili Night, walking through Beckley and meeting those currently struggling with addiction.
French is hosting the “Art to Recovery” art show with the help of Kelly Elkins and LeAndrea Young.
All artists wanting to submit their artwork into the show can contact French at 803-546-5529, Young at 681-220-8066 or Elkins on Facebook.