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Indianapolis Arts Council offers welfare scholarships in honor of artist Wug Laku – WISH-TV | Indianapolis News | Indiana Weather forecast


INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Conversations about mental health in the city’s arts community are heating up after the death of Indianapolis musician Herman Whitfield III.

Whitfield died in police custody on Monday after being Tasered. IMPD officers had been called to Whitfield’s home on a report that he had psychosis.

On April 21, before Whitfield’s death, the Indianapolis Arts Council shared a quote on Facebook: “The most important thing we can do to de-stigmatize the mental health journey of artists is to continue to discuss it. “

The Arts Council says a recent survey showed that mental health issues affect around 50% of freelance artists in Indy.

“Artists and art lift people up during difficult times and we need to support these artists so they can continue to be healthy and think healthy,” said Nancy Lee, a local metalworking artist.

Lee chooses to remember his friend and fellow artist, Wug Laku, by sharing his story to help artists struggling with mental health issues.

Untreated mental illness led to his death in 2017 at the age of 63, according to the arts council.

“It wasn’t until he had a full psychotic breakdown that I realized his mental health issues were much bigger than I ever imagined,” Lee said.

In honor of Laku, the Arts Council created the Wug Laku Grants for Mental Health and Wellbeing. The money for the grants, which range from $250 to $750, comes from the sale of his art and is supported by the Herbert Simon Family Foundation.

Grant money will help an artist pay for individual therapy, support groups, art therapy, and more. The application deadline is June 13 or until funds are exhausted.

“When you think of all the therapies that are out there, art therapy, dance therapy, music therapy…this creative expression is a medium that people can use as an outlet,” said Nikki Kirk, director of the Council’s community investment. “So I think there may be some of that stigma because they’re artists, they already have an outlet.”

According to the Arts Council, a study shows that the concerns of some artists stem from social isolation and financial difficulties caused by the pandemic. But in many cases, the problems have always been there.

“It takes a certain amount of bravery to endure this part of your life,” Lee said.

The Arts Council will also focus on the health and well-being of black people in its next Art & Soul Celebration.