The Fresh A.I.R. (Artists in Recovery) Gallery will hold its annual Art of Recovery fundraiser Friday at the Columbus Museum of Art, with all proceeds going directly to the nonprofit gallery.

Auction bidders at the 2016 Fresh A.I.R. Gallery fundraiser. Credit: Courtesy of Myken Pullins.

Operated by Southeast Healthcare Services, Fresh A.I.R — which stands for Artists in Recovery — is dedicated to exhibiting the artwork of individuals affected by mental illness or substance-abuse disorders.

“What we do is to help break down the stigma, educate the community and bring focus to the artistic vision,” said Myken Pullins, public relations director at Fresh A.I.R.

The annual fundraiser will feature live and silent auctions where attendees can bid on more than 100 donated works from local and national artists. Southeast Healthcare Services, a health-care nonprofit organization that helps those with severe persistent mental illness and substance-abuse disorders, aims to gross between $80,000 and $100,000 in funds each year, which goes directly back into the organization. The event will also feature live art demonstrations, music and food.

As the gallery does not make a profit from works sold throughout the year, Pullins said Art of Recovery exists to help sustain the nonprofit gallery so that it can continue its main focus of supporting affected artists.

“A reason we’re so unique is that Fresh A.I.R. doesn’t take any commission,” Pullins said. “All the artwork sold goes directly to the artists to help them establish their careers.”

The gallery works for artists like Jason VanHoose, a Youngstown native who suffered from depression at an early age, which he said prevented him from his master’s degree.

Having been a professional artist for 30 years, VanHoose said he first got involved with Fresh A.I.R. five years ago when he did a solo exhibition, showcasing his large-scale oil paintings on canvas, primarily specializing in Ohio-inspired landscapes among other things. He has been involved with the gallery ever since.

“Being involved with [Fresh A.I.R.] allowed me to stay active as an artist and keep an active resume during a difficult stretch in my life,” Vanhoose said.

VanHoose has donated works to the past three Art of Recovery fundraisers in order to give back to an organization that has provided for  him and others.

“The event is a lot of fun,” VanHoose said. “It brings so much to the table. Attending [the fundraiser] helps Fresh A.I.R. continue to support professional artists that have been working hard for a long time.”

Pullins said the fundraiser is vital to decreasing the stigma of mental illness, as well as assisting artists who have struggled with disorders.

The funds also go toward other programs operated by Southeast Healthcare Services, such as its vocational and homeless services, its new dental program as well as an effort to increase studio space for artists.

Live auction at the 2016 Fresh A.I.R. Gallery fundraiser. Credit: Courtesy of Myken Pullins.

Every year, Art of Recovery presents the Recovery Award, an honor that is given to an individual or organization that combats the stigma of mental illness and addiction disorder stigmas in the community and works to promote recovery.

This year the organization has chosen to honor Ohio Gov. John Kasich for his work in heightening mental illness awareness, advocating proper treatment for individuals who suffer from addiction and his fight for Medicaid expansion, which has directly affected Southeast Healthcare Services, Pullins said.

Past recipients include David Royer, CEO of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, and Phil Cass, CEO of Columbus Medical Association, Columbus Medical Association Foundation, Physicians Care Connection and Central Ohio Trauma System.

A VIP reception to the gallery will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. and general admission will open at 6 p.m. General admission tickets are priced at $75 individually and $125 for two. VIP tickets are $150 individually and $275 for two.