Foundation heals Deep Ellum artists after recent suicides

Using art to prevent suicides

For the fans who listen to the music of the band Spector 45, they may enjoy the sound or sing along. But the band’s drummer, Anthony Delabano, says if they listen close, they'll hear something that goes beyond the band or the music.

They'll hear the expression of a burdened mind.

“If you go back and listen to the lyrics from our music and look into it deeply, you will see it,” Delabano said.

In 2011, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, Frankie Campagna, took his own life. Just 77 days later, their bass guitarist, Adam Carter, did the same, leaving Anthony as the only surviving member of Spector 45. He and Campagna met in middle school and formed their band as teenagers. Their music and their friendship was an outlet.

“We had some difficult times growing up and we would talk to each other” said Delabano as he tried to recall and make sense of the events the led to his friends’ suicides. “There were no real signs. Just feelings. We had a feeling something was going on.”

Campagna’s death weighed heavy on both Delabano and Carter. Finding help or someone who could understand the feelings they experienced was difficult.

Something Carter never found.

“He just did not know how to get help. He was stuck and he could not get out.”

Spector 45 was one of many bands that filled the Deep Ellum nights with music. Art sits in galleries and murals adorn exterior walls in the neighborhood where the best of Dallas’ artistic creativity is on display. But just as it did in the lyrics of Spector 45’s songs, sometimes those expressions can carry deeper and more troubling feelings. According to Delabano, 13 members of the Deep Ellum community have committed suicide since 2011. Data from the Center for Suicide Research at Wayne State University suggests artists and writers of all kinds are more prone to suicide.

Delabano says it is almost a “chicken and egg” type situation because artistic expression is not the cause of depressive feelings, but those feelings lead to the expression.

“There is a reason why musicians and artists want to express themselves,” he said. “They pour their heart into their music and it is an outlet for them to show how they feel in a lot of ways.”

The disturbing trend for artists, especially so close to home in Deep Ellum, is what motivated Delabano and others to keep the spirit of the band alive. Spector 45 now lives on as Foundation 45, a group therapy effort inviting artists to regular meetings to express their feelings with other likeminded people.

Following the suicides of his bandmates, Delabano himself struggled to find therapy that truly reached him.

“A lot of people reached out to me, but not a lot knew how to deal with me. A lot of the counseling had a soft message and that is not the attitude or the feelings I had at the time. I needed something real with a presence and a real voice.”

A real voice is what makes Foundation 45 different from other counselors or therapy said Delabano. The organization has two licensed therapists who help lead the positive conversation, aiming specifically for a language and dialogue sensitive to artistic expression.

“Art and music are known for tapping into a part of the brain this is very emotional,” said Kristen Warren, one of the Foundation 45 therapist. “It is the part of the brain where our feelings come from and that is why it is so powerful.”

Whereas other professions like lawyers or architects might use rational means and methods to contain their feelings, Warren says the same feelings in artists are much more unrestrained.

“They feel the feelings very deep. Whether it is the happy feelings, the sad ones, the angry ones. They feel them very raw and very deep.”

Foundation 45 holds sessions at Professor Pete’s in Deep Ellum and this Saturday they will hold a fundraiser called “Art of the Guitar.” Artists in the neighborhood donated 45 guitars, each painted or decorated in its own theme and accompanied by a story expressing the motivation behind the art. Many of the stories have a personal connection to suicide.

Delabano’s favorite is a guitar with stencil painting of Frankie Campagna’s face across the front.

“Some of the stories that come from these guitars will just blow your mind.”

The guitars are on display at the Kettle Art Gallery in Deep Ellum, a gallery owned by Campagna’s father, and will be auctioned to raise money for Foundation 45. Warren says the money raised will help provide the counseling sessions to artists, many of whom may not have health insurance or an affordable option for therapy.  

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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