BERNARDSVILLE, NJ- The Alhamra Art Gallery held the opening of its latest exhibit, “Stigma,” showcasing original work by Ridge High School students, with an opening on June 13. The show aims to bring awareness to mental illnesses and addiction by offering a lens into the world of someone who’s suffering.

In light of past community events and tragic deaths in the past year or so, neurologist and Alhamra Art Gallery co-owner Arshia Qasim sponsored three student workshops in the gallery, hoping “to have meaningful discussions about what it is like to be a teenager in this day and age.” Organized around the themes of mental illness, addiction, and recovery, the workshops gave participants a way to express their awareness of the social pressures faced by young people.

Qasim explained that, “For me, the workshop process has been far more interesting because it has enabled me to understand how fertile and how rich these kids are ... If I had just taken their art and shown it in the gallery, I would have been deprived of the interactions I had.”

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Isabel Pardo and Vanessa Wilkes, Ridge High School seniors, lead the curation process for the show. They said they enjoyed being able to work with Qasim. “She was so high energy ... she let us have full reins on the project and wanted us to decide,” said Wilkes.

It was from there that the girls and fellow artists decided to shed light on a topic that they feel society shies away from, giving it the discussion it needs.

The show will run until July 14. The public is welcome and encouraged to come in and view the works produced by these promising artists, and help them break the cycle of silence surrounding mental illness and addiction.

The art gallery is at 21 Claremont Road in Bernardsville.