The Living Museum
Jessica Yu, Dawn Parouse, Sheila Nevins, Shana Hagan, Sandra Tsing Loh
Jessica Yu returns to Sundance (her short, Better Late, played in 1997) with an extraordinary portrait of a forgotten portion of society. The Living Museum takes us beyond despairing generalizations about state mental institutions and broadens our views on the potential hidden within them.
Rather than a gloomy recreation hall where patients are glued to a humming television, we are thrust into a vibrant world of bright colors and testures where possibility has no limits. The patients at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, both residents and outpatients, are invited to personalize their space by creating art which is as expressive and arguably as important as any elsewhere. The two men responsible for the renovated storeroom known as the Living Museum are the late Bolek Greczynski and psychologist Dr. Janos Marton, who remains the director of the museum, both unconventional thinkers who shared a vision.
The film introduces a number of patients with a range of illnesses, but all of them recognize they can express themselves through art in ways unavailable otherwise. From Issa, a young, articulate, court-appointed patient who uses painting as a release; to the detached David, a schizophrenic who uses art as a bridge to the outside world; to the highly educated Helen, diagnosed with severe depression, who always dreamed of becoming an artist and is about to show her work na gallery in SoHo, the art space is central to their lives. Completely devoid of sentimentality or preciousness, The Living Museum celebrates the hidden artist in us all.