By Kriti Sarwagi, Grade 12
Dealing with grief and mental health issues is a huge challenge worsened by the lack of open conversation around it. To combat this, Semeion Richardson, a suicide crisis counselor, combined her passion for mental health advocacy and her love of art to create a safe environment for self-expression for all.
Richardson is working towards opening a mobile art studio and gallery in downtown Leesburg, which will become the first Black-owned art gallery in the tri-county area. "My goal is to connect mental health and art, but also create fun experiences for kids and adults," Richardson said. "When we can express ourselves, we can see what is going on inside. I want to build a bridge from community to unity." While she has big plans for her gallery, it is of utmost importance to her to create an environment in which everyone experiences love. In addition to her studio and gallery, Richardson also works with SolePurpose: a project in which kids paint on shoes to represent things they are feeling or going through in their lives. The School of the Hands of God in Haiti is another such undertaking led by Richardson, where more than 400 kids get to express themselves via art.
Through her work, Semeion Richardson has found that creating artwork resolves emotions and secures thoughts, allowing individuals to contemplate broader issues. Art also becomes a base from which to connect (with others and yourself). Her purpose is not to eliminate suffering, but to voice it, believing that expression is a form of transformation.