New exhibit, “Looking for the Light,” aims to destigmatize mental illness

Featuring artwork from Michael Francis Miller of Goober & the Peas, organizers Dan John Miller and Rabbi Danny Syme honor the lives of their loved ones.

Photo credit: Steve Shaw

Untitled painting by Michael Francis Miller, featured in the exhibit

Artists, faith leaders, mental health advocates and more are joining forces to help destigmatize how we discuss – and help – those suffering from mental illness. Looking for the Light is a series of panel discussions, an art exhibit and performances occurring through May 31 at Galerie Camille in Midtown Detroit and nearby locations.

At the heart of the series is the artwork of Michael Francis Miller, a painter, poet and founding member of the beloved Detroit country-punk band Goober & the Peas. Miller passed away in 2001 of suicide, after years of courageously battling profound depression and schizophrenia. Miller’s brother and bandmate, Dan John Miller, recently re-discovered the incredible paintings made by his brother during the 1980s and 1990s as his family was clearing the contents of their mother’s basement.

“I felt a need to honor my brother’s creative spirit,” says Miller. “He was a wonderful spirit, who always pushed me and inspired me to do more [creative work].”

Inspired by the renewed discovery, Miller was determined to share his brother’s memory and talent with the world.

“One of the things that was hard [about the aftermath of his death] was trying to make something positive out of something that was so sad, that just left such a hole for us.”

With help from friends, the event has grown from a gallery exhibit of Miller’s work into a nearly month-long series of performances, discussions and healing for those who have lost loved ones to mental illness. With the addition of Rabbi Danny Syme, a former senior rabbi at Bloomfield Hills’ Temple Beth El and a leading local crusader in the fight against suicide, Looking for the Light aims to de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health struggles.

Rabbi Syme lost his brother, also named Michael, to suicide in 1975. “I felt pain and guilt … and from that moment to this I’ve spent a big portion of my life working in youth suicide prevention.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.


Listen: “Looking for the Light” organizers Dan John Miller and Rabbi Danny Syme honor the lives of their loved ones.

 

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Author

  • Amanda LeClaire is Host of CultureShift and is a founding producer of both of WDET's locally-produced daily shows. She's been involved in radio and the arts in Detroit for over a decade.