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Local Zine Uses Art To Move The Needle On Mental Health 11

After exploring gentrification and immigration, Make Art With Purpose’s zine, Let’s Talk, dives into mental health in its third issue.


Make Art With Purpose, or MAP, published Let’s Talk 3 on March 9, 2021. The zine comprises poetry, prose, photography, artwork, and articles from 11 artists and writers from across the globe. It will be accompanied by several public programs aimed at addressing mental health. It was funded by individual donors and a grant from the the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture.


While the idea for a mental health issue began in 2019, COVID-19 delayed the rollout of the publication. However Janeil Engelstad, the founder of MAP and the editor of Let’s Talk, said that the issue of mental health has become more relevant than ever.

Inside art from Let’s Talk 3, Kristina Smith, video still from dis.associate, multi-channel video installation, 2019. Courtesy of Janeil Engelstad

“No one talked about mental health. You wouldn’t even talk about someone in the family with issues with mental health. I feel like that has been changing over the years, but with the pandemic that has really changed.” Engelstad said. “I think it is a really opportune time to grab onto this and make this something that is front and center and show it is okay to talk about and be more accepting and understanding.”

The 42-page zine features work from the writers Matthew Horton (Austin), Eleanor Szendrey (Dallas), and Koon Woon (Seattle), and the artists Erica Felicella (Dallas), Kristina Smith (Denton), LeAnne Hitchcock (New Orlens), Elvin Flamingo (Gdańsk, Poland), and Clint, Jesse and Natalia from the Evergreen Art program (Dallas), which assists people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). 


Engelstad said that MAP wanted to make sure to highlight local artists while having a diversity of perspectives. She was particularly proud of their decision to work with the Evergreen Art program. The program aims to use art as a way to bridge the communication gap that people with IDD often face. The artwork produced through the program is for sale on their website. Half the proceeds go to the artists and the other half goes to the program. 


“This is the first time that the program has been featured with an organization at this level,” Engelstad said. “So to say we value this art, we value what you’re doing, we are going to tell a little of your story through your art and publish it here. That was really incredible.”

Inside art from Let’s Talk 3, Erica Felicella, images from the performance Building Beauty, 2019. Courtesy of Janeil Engelstad

The first of a series of events to accompany the zine was a Mental Health workshop on May, 14, 2021 featuring artist Erica Felicella. Engelstad introduced the issues of the zine and then Felicella spoke about how the artistic process has helped with own mental health. They then opened up the floor to the audience and led them in some therapeutic artistic exercises. 


Engelstad said it was important for events to accompany the zine because it raised awareness and deepened the effect of the work.


“For each project there is a different recipe with all these ingredients, and the recipe depends on how we see how we can have an impact,” Engelstad said. “That is why MAP exists. It is to move the needle.”


Future events in conjunction with Let’s Talk 3 will be announced on MAP’s website, where the zine is available by order.