Those Who Serve: Carmen

Assistant Program Director for BHN’s Adult Community Clinical Services Program Carmen Quinones, the Assistant Program Director for ACCS, is no stranger to artistic expression. “My father was an artist, so art was always a part of our household — I’ve been drawing since I could talk.”

Carmen joined BHN two years ago as a Care Coordinator for the Adult Community Clinical Services program in Westfield (formerly known as the CBFS program), bringing her passion for art with her. Eventually, a number of local art exhibits caught her attention, citing exhibits hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Holyoke Community College, as sources of inspiration. As May approached, Carmen saw an opportunity to align a possible art exhibit with May Mental Health Month.

On May 11 last year, the walls within The Mill at Crane Pond in Westfield came to life when Carmen organized the art exhibit featuring paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other forms of art created by program participants and employees. In the words of the Carmen, “We have a lot of talented program participants and staff [and] it was very rewarding seeing how proud our participants were showcasing their artwork.”

The process of turning her idea into a reality was no small feat — “It was an intense process,” she recalls, “we didn’t expect as many pieces as we got; they kept flooding in past the deadline.”

Yet, the process also revealed the depth of Carmen’s generosity. She cites one participant who spent hours creating paintings for the exhibit, but couldn’t afford the supplies to display and frame them — “I ended up taking all 8 of her paintings home with me and spent a couple hours framing them myself.” Another participant had been passionate about photography during his childhood and teenage years but gave it up as an adult. “He had tons and tons of old photographs in his attic, and this exhibit gave him an opportunity to showcase his work for the first time in decades. His reaction meant the world to me — he was so proud to display his work again.”

Naturally, the exhibit’s resounding success led to questions about future exhibits within BHN, to which Carmen responds, “I’m still recovering from this one!” “It was very rewarding to see how program participants felt as a result — they were so happy and so proud to showcase their work,” she continued, “it’s no secret our walls are boring, blank canvases waiting to be filled — everyone was so excited to see the walls come alive with color.”

In the end, Carmen’s art exhibit became a symbol of something larger than the display of art — “I think it just goes to show that anything is possible with some inspiration and determination.”