Hidden Lantern Festival Combines Art and Mental Health
by Pat Timmons ’17
This week, students are putting on an incredible arts festival at Emerson College called Hidden Lantern (formerly Project WOW). The festival highlights student work with a focus on mental illness awareness. Suzie Hicks and Ellie Penfield-Cyr, co-executive producers of the festival, answered some questions about it and their hopes for the impact it has on campus.
How it all began
Suzie and Ellie were studying abroad together at Kasteel Well in the Netherlands when they began to talk about their experiences with mental illness. Suzie says that whenever she was going through a difficult time, she would put on her headphones and listen to music or hum and sing to herself. “It was art that kept me going,” she says. “[Then] I realized that most of the art that my friends were sharing with me had been created in moments of weakness or of pain, and it hit me. Emerson students use art as a coping mechanism to bring them strength when they cannot find it, and I wanted to provide a space to do that.”
The two students used this inspiration to create the hugely successful Project WOW, now Hidden Lantern. The positive effects it had on Emerson’s campus were apparent, says Ellie. “Creating a space where students can come together to support one another, reminding one another that we are all humans with different emotions and experiences, is important,” she says. “For everyone to be supportive of one another and have a positive environment is one of the missions of Hidden Lantern.”
Creating a support network
This year, the festival is sponsored by the organizations Active Minds, WECB, Spirit of Emerson, and the EVVYs. Suzie is really excited for opportunities to keep growing. “This semester, we’re really hoping to get a good turnout for [all of] the events, and for audience members to come with an open mind and leave with an added appreciation for their own existence. We also really hope Lee Pelton comes to something. The goal of this project is to make it a staple in the Emerson community, as much as the Green Gala or EFA Gala. We will know it is successful if one person feel empowered. Even just one.”
Ellie feels that this project helps combat the stigma around mental health and illness, and that has become more than just a festival. “Hidden Lantern is a place where people like me can support one another without being judged. I hope that people can see this as a support network at Emerson College.”
Visit the Hidden Lantern Arts Festival Facebook page for more about the event.