illustration of prescription bottles and syringes
Illustration credit: Leeannah McNew

Seventeen Temple University students have contributed artwork and poetry to Art for Change, an online exhibition illustrating the opioid crisis and its intersection with students’ lives. The interactive exhibition can be viewed online and is intended to foster conversation through online commenting from November 12 through 15. The art will also be posted to the project's Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Art for Change is part of Temple’s “MyLens...Our Issues” project, which is focused on reducing stigma and discrimination around opioid use, including barriers to harm reduction, treatment and recovery. The project had several components, including virtual Narcan trainings held earlier this year, the development of a resource guide, and the current exhibit. The work was launched by College of Public Health faculty members Deirdre Dingman, assistant professor in social and behavioral sciences, and Marsha Zibalese-Crawford, associate professor of social work, who received funding through a SAMHSA opioid state response grant specific to higher ed. 

“The number one underlying goal for all of this is reducing the stigma associated with substance use,” Dingman says. “The words we use to describe people who have a substance use disorder can be stigmatizing and keep people from reaching out for treatment.”

The student artwork depicts the perceptions, emotions and challenges faced by substance users and those who care for them. “Interpersonal Conflicts,” an illustration by senior advertising major Leeannah McNew, is meant to depict the flood of negative emotions—shame, pain, blame—that can be associated with addiction, according to the artist.

“I have seen the effects it can have as well as how mental health affects our relationships,” she says. She immersed herself in the portraits and interviews that are posted on the Kensington Blues website, a series of portraits of people who suffer from substance use disorders who live along Kensington Avenue in North Philadelphia. “I wanted to highlight the different emotions each interviewee had experienced and the inner turmoil one goes through.”

The poem “Finding Solutions,” by media studies and production major Zoe Sohenick, is a plea to give substance users love and support rather than judgment and anger. 

“My father passed away from a drug overdose when I was very young, too young to even understand,” she says. “The only way we can find a solution is if we educate ourselves and start talking about it.”  She writes: “Reunion / for millions of families / is what we can provide.”

View the exhibition.