Local group Come On, Come Ons will perform as a part of the live music, art and local food celebration that is the Gathering Place’s third annual Community Illumination event on Saturday. (Photo by Beth Flick)

Saturday Marks Gathering Place’s Third Annual Community Illumination

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This Saturday will mark the Gathering Place’s third annual Community Illumination event at Central Venue, 29 E. Carpenter St. in Athens, featuring many varieties of art for sale, live music and local food; all in the name of de-stigmatizing mental illness.

The Gathering Place has served the Athens community for 41 years, providing connections to wellbeing services and more for adults in the area who have been diagnosed with mental health issues.

“My focus in encouraging the Gathering Place to establish a yearly Community Illumination event was to create something that would serve as a vehicle to further the organization’s mission to de-stigmatize mental illness,” said Ginger Schmalenberg, the Resource and Development Director at the Gathering Place. “We have so many artists and poets and musicians in the area, and I wanted to establish something that would use that resource in furthering our mission. ‘Mental illness’ often has a negative connotation, even though it shouldn’t; it’s just a part of the human condition.”

Music will be a big part of Saturday’s celebration, featuring the Gathering Place’s own house band, The Gatherers, as well as local outfit Come On, Come Ons.

Richard Otto, a member of The Gatherers, said that the band started as a music therapy group that slowly developed into a full-fledged band.

“I think (Community Illumination) is important because it takes the stigma off of mental illness; it shows that anyone can have mental illness,” said Otto. “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor — it effects everybody. It can also directly affect family members. I think having a Community Illumination event allows everyone to see that mental illness isn’t something to be afraid of. People can see that it’s their neighbor, their son, who has mental illness.”

Currently, The Gatherers are working on their first full length release, which features almost entirely original material.

“Community Illumination gives us a chance to show off our art; like our paintings, which we will hopefully be able to sell,” said Kat Trout, who is also a member of The Gatherers. “It kind of gives us a chance to shine. Something that can help us feel that we are more than a label.”

Otto said that the event also allows members of the Gathering Place to get to know each other on a more intimate level.

“Perhaps you didn’t know that a musician made art; you get to learn about other people here, and you become closer that way,” he said

Stephanie Cotterell, the Gathering Place’s social work intern, said that Community Illumination is not only beneficial to the agency, but to the community at large, as well.

“As a non-profit organization, we do get to take the profits that we get from an event like this, which helps us as an agency, but something like this also really encourages community involvement,” said Cotterell.

Community Illumination is taking place on Saturday, Jan. 21, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Central Venue. Admission to the event is free and donations are accepted at the door.