Athens Photographic Project
Founded in 2000, the Athens Photographic Project (APP) provides resources to individuals living with mental health conditions so they can build identity, confidence and hope through the arts. With photography, APP artists find new ways to express themselves and support one another while also experiencing greater social inclusion within their communities.
The Osteopathic Heritage Foundations gratefully acknowledge APP and the many individual photographers who contributed art to the development of our new website.
Many things happen during our classes: friendships form, self-knowledge deepens, perspectives change, and all of southeast Ohio becomes our photo studio… each artist participating in our classes has used photography to reclaim his or her own voice, which was once lost to a mental health condition, substance use disorder, or other significant life challenge. Living with such challenges and the stigma associated with them can cause self-doubt and raise questions of identity. Who am I? Where do I fit in? Through the lens of the camera, each APP Artist arrives at his or her own answers to these questions.
Foundation Support for APP
At the heart of APP are the artists who are its creative core. While the story of each participant is unique, they have all joined APP to create a community of artists using photography as a tool for self-expression, personal growth and social change within the journey of mental health recovery.
To expand their mission, APP launched an arts-based social enterprise in 2020 with support from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation of Nelsonville (the Foundation), creating job training and placement opportunities for individuals living with chronic mental health challenges. Artists involved in the social enterprise take photos on commission for clients, allowing APP to develop new pathways to growing the region’s workforce through art. In addition, artists experience the value they bring to the community and to further support the work of APP itself.
The funding award from the Foundation provided APP with necessary program start-up equipment and support for artist training, which was grounded in experiential learning with guidance from a photography coach.
The Foundation served as the program’s first client, commissioning photography for display in our offices while also commissioning APP to photograph the work of nine community organizations across southeast Ohio, which have received Foundation support in the past. These community organizations then benefitted from the work of APP artists when the photos were made available for each organization’s use in communications materials. As artists captured the missions of each organization, they practiced the skills needed for the full launch of this social enterprise. As the enterprise grows, it will continue to generate paid work opportunities for artists as well as funding for APP to support its mission more broadly.
As part of this initiative, the artists also developed a co-op model for their work, giving them the opportunity to lead and share in decision-making together.
APP Social Enterprise Project Partners:
- Bassett House / Health Recovery Services
- Chesterhill Produce Auction / Rural Action
- Community Food Initiatives
- Hocking Athens Perry Community Action
- The Hive / Integrated Services for Behavioral Health
- Live Healthy Appalachia
- Nelsonville Food Cupboard
- Stuart’s Opera House
“The project “really opened my eyes to the need to consider other people’s thoughts and feelings. In the co-op, we have to listen to each other. It has taught me patience and better listening skills.” The challenges of working in a group were worth it because in the co-op, “I feel valued, like my opinion matters… I feel like every aspect of my life has opened up.”
–Leslie Brooks, APP Artist
“Bassett House’s collaboration with APP has been fantastic on so many levels. One very positive benefit I have noticed is the impact that having the photos on our website have had. Many times, the idea of going to treatment can be a difficult one, especially due to the uncertainty of what the experience will be like. Since we have put photos cultivated by the APP of our facility and surrounding area on our website for the clients, family and referrals to see we have experienced an increase in comfort when seeking services and the cultivation of new referral networks. Many of the clients have remarked how great it was to be able to see where they were going before they got here. It seems like it really helps with the level of anxiety that comes with coming to a new program. I think it also does a wonderful job communicating the energy of the environment that we are trying to create at our facility.”
-Linda Rust, Bassett House Program Director, Health Recovery Services
Featured Images: Thank you to the APP photographers!
The Athens Hocking Vinton Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board (317 Board) is part of Ohio’s county and regional network of agencies responsible for planning, developing, funding and evaluating a community-based system of care for individuals in need of behavioral health and substance use disorder services.
In 2013, the Appalachia Accessible Food Network (AAFN) was created to expand and diversify coordinated efforts to measurably increase the availability, affordability and consumption of healthy food among low-income, vulnerable populations in southeastern Ohio.
The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) is a regional community foundation serving Appalachian Ohio’s 32 counties, with a mission to create opportunities for Appalachian Ohio’s citizens and communities by inspiring and supporting philanthropy.
CHOICES is committed to excellence in serving domestic violence victims and survivors in Central Ohio and has served as the sole resource for those seeking shelter in Franklin County for more than four decades.
Hopewell Health Centers, Inc. (Hopewell) provides access to affordable, high quality integrated healthcare for all. Designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center, Hopewell provides comprehensive health services throughout southeastern Ohio, regardless of a patient's ability to pay.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Center (OLGC) is a program of Catholic Social Services, which evolved from an immigrant woman’s desire to give back to the Hispanic community in Columbus.
Athens Photographic Project (APP) is a vibrant community of artists dedicated to using photography as a tool for self-expression, personal growth and community contribution within the journey of mental health recovery.