Thousands of crystal-filled glassine baggies hang from the ceiling like an avant-garde chandelier, but their glistening luminescence represents something much darker. Titled “4642,” the art installation piece represents the number of people who lost their lives to heroin/opioid addiction in Pennsylvania in 2016. It is the centerpiece of The Art of Recovery: Brush with the Law exhibition at the West Campus of Montgomery County Community College in Pottstown, Pa. from August 30 through October 28.
The exhibition is curated by Maria Maneos of Montgomeryville, Pa., founder and director of Brush with the Law, a non-profit, community service-based visual arts program that helps bring awareness to and fosters an understanding of people who experience the effects of drug addiction and the criminal justice system.
In addition to "4642," the exhibition features about 50 artistic creations, including drawings and paintings, by former prisoners and those in recovery from drug addiction who are affiliated with the Brush with the Law program.
"This exhibition will give visitors the opportunity to see what they experience, what they feel and what their hopes are," Maneos said. "Maybe it will help them see that these are people who have gone through severe trials and tribulations in their life, and we should not just forget them or dismiss them as lower beings."
A second art installation piece, "The Baggie Project," is a display of short messages written by people struggling with drug addiction – specifically heroin – and the family and friends whose lives have also been affected by the user. The messages are written on wax vellum paper baggies, which are typically used to package heroin. The messages, which convey what the baggie stands for in their lives, are pinned to a fabric-covered wall, and there will be additional baggies and sharpies available for visitors to write their own messages and pin to the display.
"The public will be able to walk along and read those sincerely heart-felt messages," Maneos said. "Family and friends who have also been afflicted are also welcome to participate."
An interview with Maneos about Brush with the Law and The Art of Recovery exhibition can be heard at ON THE AIR.
A reception featuring Maneos and the artists will be held on Wednesday, September 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the gallery. The exhibition and the reception are free and open to the public.
The Fine Arts Gallery, located in North Hall at 16 High Street in Pottstown, is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Gallery is closed on Saturday and Sunday.
Photo caption: Wax vellum baggies, which are typically used to package heroin, will be the centerpiece of “The Baggie Project,” an art installation piece which is part of The Art of Recovery exhibition at the West Campus of Montgomery County Community College.