A central Iowa woman who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2020 is among the artists being featured in a month-long exhibition that’s now open in Des Moines.

Stephanie Harrington, executive director of The Sunny Porch, founded the non-profit in memory of her late daughter, Anna. Harrington says the exhibit called “Enchanted Illusion” features more than 100 works by 11 Iowans.

“We have some ink artists that do ink and marker. We have some acrylic painters. We have some that are doing ink on yupo paper and ceramic tile and one artist uses nothing but colored pencil,” Harrington says, “so the whole exhibition just has a really nice variety that people can come and take a look at.”

This is the organization’s second annual exhibit which is focused on creating greater mental health awareness through art.
“Many of the artists have different reasons why mental health is important to them,” Harrington says. “Some of them live with something that is a mental health concern. Others have people that they love in their life that mental health has just become an important topic for them.”

Harrington’s daughter had been diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 18 and later, bipolar disorder. She was 26 when she died of an accidental fentanyl overdose. “As I started Sunny Porch, I was going through a lot of her art and I just thought, ‘I can’t let this sit in my basement. I need to share this with people,’ and it really tells — and is still telling Anna’s story of her struggle with mental health.”

Harrington says her daughter’s art served as an outlet that helped her cope with her mental illness. She says many of the artists in this year’s exhibition use their art for its therapeutic value and to express their support for mental health awareness. “Enchanted Illusion” is being featured at the Polk County Heritage Gallery in Des Moines through February 3rd.

Radio Iowa