Community members shared their gratitude for pets during a Mental Health Month event sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness on May 16 at the Humane Society of Douglas County in Superior.

Research shows that pets play a role in their owners' wellness and provide social support, said Eleni Pinnow, president of the NAMI Douglas County board of directors. The board had been discussing a plan for a pet-themed event for a while.

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"Just to thank pets for all they do helping our wellness and well-being," Pinnow said.

Blake Emmons and Bree Goodiel of Superior took the opportunity to thank their three cats: Kabuki, Meow Meow and Bandit. Allisa Penney enlisted the help of her 10-month-old daughter, Hope, to create packs of treats and cards for her mother's pets: Lola the cat and a puppy named Murphy.

"She loves furry animals," Penney said of Hope.

Katie Foust was there to thank her dog, Jack. She also appreciated the venue.

"I figured I would come make gifts for him and go pet the other animals," she said.

Visit NAMI-Douglas County, WI or Northland Healthy Minds on Facebook for more information on Mental Health Month events in the Northland.

UWS students create soothing art for clinic

Scattered throughout St. Luke's Mariner Medical Clinic in Superior are 58 pieces of art targeted toward improving mental health. Created by art therapy students at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, the work has been installed over the last two months.

The artwork, which is a permanent display, was celebrated with tours and a reception Wednesday, May 22, to highlight Mental Health Month.

"We've had a lot of patients that are really stressed out say it's nice to have a smile on their face when they're looking at this artwork," said Dr. Sonja Swenson, a family medical doctor.

The work was funded through a grant from St. Luke's Foundation to support mental health and well-being at the clinic.

"We need art for the clinic and we know mental health is an issue in the local community," clinic manager Katy Johnson said.

She connected with UWS Professor Gloria Eslinger, director of art therapy programming, to enlist students in her development of creative functioning class. They toured the clinic and researched what colors, hues and imagery encouraged relaxation and mental well-being.

"At that point, it was kind of free rein for them to use their creativity," Johnson said.

Students knew their work would be juried and some pieces chosen for display. Johnson ended up picked all but two of their pieces.

"I was not expecting that. I was expecting maybe one or two per student," Eslinger said. "But she just absolutely saw the vision of how each of the different types of imagery was going to work here."

The art is showcased throughout the clinic.

"We've got it in restrooms, labs, exam rooms, lobby," Johnson said. "It's been really fun to see the unique pieces that have been created."

Larger works, like a six-picture display with a nautical theme and an interactive board for children incorporating fiber art, were placed in the lobby.

Physicians got first pick of the smaller pieces. Dr. Brian Riddle zeroed in on the forest-themed outdoor art; Swenson opted for beach and nautical art.

Medical assistant Jess Koenen picked pieces with bright colors and a sense of flow for a suite of exam rooms, including a textured piece with embedded sparkles by Jill Scudder that reminded her of a galaxy and a drawing by Anissa Peppersack showing light glinting through a green and yellow forest.

Previously, the rooms had pictures of animals and motivational quotes. Koenen said she liked the student artwork more.

"Everybody's able to interpret what it means to them," she said.