Folk Art. You don’t need years of formal training, you don’t need expensive materials, you don’t need a studio, an agent, or a gallery.

Folk art is people. People with an idea to express, a feeling to share, and maybe some hard-won skills that they want to share as well. Folk art is a way to communicate with other people who want to connect and express their own ideas. It’s got the word “folk” right there in the name, after all.

FolkTime is a Portland non-profit that helps connect people who are sharing the experience of living with mental illness, by offering peer support and community-based activities, and a wide variety of programs and services. FolkTime took its name from the observation that arts and crafts activities really brought people together. They have found a way to help draw people out of isolation.

All this week, we are interviewing FolkTime folks. Monday, Jacob Thom interviewed  Samantha Thayer-Osborne, who is currently the Lead for Health Resilience Peer Support, one of FolkTime’s two peer-specialists who work to promote overall health including all aspects of mental, physical, and dental health. Samantha has worked in nearly every clinical setting where FolkTime provides peer-support.

Tuesday we met Randal Wyatt and Leah Hunter, who manage the Open Minds, Open Doors (OMOD), an anti-stigma campaign that includes “Be the One” and “Yes I Can,” a creative OMOD Campaign that teaches and encourages teens to create films as a way to tell their stories and express issues they face, creating a platform to reach others who may be suffering in isolation.

Wednesday we talked with Gloria Giddens, one of FolkTime’s longest-term employees and the Program Manager of FolkTime’s flagship program, the NE Portland Social Center, which currently hosts roughly 110 members four days a week, offering hot meals, a weekly food distribution program, arts, crafts, games and, above all else, community.  She was with her Supervisor, Maria Gargano, who supervises 4 of FolkTime’s Social Programs, NE, Oregon City, Rural Outreach, and Veterans Connection. These social programs saves lives, and Gloria is a remarkable program manager as she too got her life back thanks to the community and socialization at this NE Portland Social Center years ago.

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