[Artivismo]: Brian Herrera’s ‘Juntos sanaremos’ art campaign destigmatizes mental health
Written by Vocalo Radio on May 22, 2020
A big contribution to my anxiety is a false sense of the “hustle” mentality that I need to be constantly creating, and working. – Brian Herrera
[Photo: Nando Espinosa Herrera @analoguevignette]
Artist Brian Herrera is always in motion. In times of pandemic anxiety, he understands from his own experience the need and lack of mental health resources for the Black and Latinx communities. As he reinvents himself through art, he also cultivates hope through his latest mental health awareness art campaign Juntos Sanaremos/Together We Will Heal, which sends a message of resistencia while destigmatizing mental health.
In the past, Herrera was known as Attitude 7—his past moniker that set him off to connect with la comunidad in the streets, where he found himself confronting gentrification in Chicago. Over the years, Brian Herrera has learned to open up to the world as transparent as he can be by using his birth name to reclaim his roots, and to embrace his identidad as a queer and undocumented Chicagoan who arrived to the U.S. from Veracruz, México at the age of eleven. Last year, he paved el camino for other artists by launching his print magazine Crossin’ Borders to give a voice to other undocumented emerging artists.
In this Q&A with Domingos en Vocalo’s host Rocío Santos, Brian shares about his quarantine experience, his mental health awareness journey, his Juntos Sanaremos campaign, and he shares some advice from his mom.
Brian also curated a 30-minute playlist with some afro-beat, space age pop, and Latin jams. ¡Chécalo!
What song describes your quarantine experience?
“In My Room” by Frank Ocean
What has inspired you the most during this time?
I have been more inspired to do art, and have been experimenting with so many mediums from animation to gouache painting. I have been trying to keep myself busy because If I don’t, I feel this anxiety kicking in. A big contribution to my anxiety is a false sense of the “hustle” mentality that I need to be constantly creating, and working. On top, sometimes there’s the dread of feeling like there nothing I can do to help anything that’s going on, as far as the injustices that are now so clear to everyone but have been happening for years and years. I have also been more mindful of my body’s needs such as eating more nourishing food.
Was there a time that you became more aware about your own mental health?
I became more self-aware after I moved out my mom’s when I was about eighteen. Being raised by a Mexican mother with their own generational trauma, talking about therapy and seeking mental health was not a serious topic around the household. Moving out my mom’s and becoming more aware of my own independence and needs, I began to become more aware of the importance of therapy. The mentors and friends I surrounded myself with, also showed me that mental health is an essential part of life. It actually wasn’t until two years ago that I decided to reach out for therapy, and it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. The type of work that I do as an artist can sometimes be emotionally overwhelming. Talking to a mental health professional puts me in a safe space to look within, let go, and learn to slow down if I need to and be gentle with myself.
In your latest Juntos Sanaremos campaign, you support the Pilsen-based health organization Healthy Hood Chicago, tell us about this collaboration.
Juntos Sanaremos/Together We Will Heal is a public service announcement to create mental health awareness and key relief hotlines; during this time of isolation, it is key to communicate our feelings, concerns, fears, and anxieties. The wheat-paste posters I make are a message to not feel alone nor suffer in silence in our homes. A lot of POC families, women, and children of low-income communities are suffering in silence, and they often lack access to external resources. I also wanted to extend the campaign into people’s homes by having prints available for purchase over at Brianherrera.shop, and have part of those proceeds go towards an organization that centers around the overall well being of Black & Latinx families; Healthy Hood Chicago is doing an amazing job organizing to provide relief resources (We Got US), mental health programs, and exercise classes via IG Live.
How do you keep sane con los pies en la tierra?
Honestly, the only thing that has kept me sane, even before this shelter in place, is art. It’s my therapy and a very powerful tool that I am constantly learning new things from. What has also kept me sane around these times is this advice from my mom: “it doesn’t matter if you’re living here, in Los Angeles, in China, if you’re not happy with things it’s not because of where you are, it’s because of yourself.” I try to apply this to this quarantine, and always try to find the silver linings, and not feel like I am stuck at home.