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On April 19, fellow Painted Brain-ers Brette, Angela, and I visited ENKI, Health and Research Systems, a community #mentalhealth center in Los Angeles. Look it up, the original “Enki” was the Babylonian god of water, crafts, intelligence, and creation. And ENKI, the place in Commerce, is truly a healing center for nurturing, arts, wisdom and creativity. They have rooms and hallways displaying art, and they even have the Wellness Band!
While everybody else was enjoying hot dogs and hamburgers after the program, I got the chance to talk with Patricia Faith Lopez, a peer advocate and creator of dollhouses. She took me behind the scenes to look at ENKI’s two huge art rooms. One of them was a craft room, where art is made. There were tables and brushes and paper. There were blobs of paint and trash. There were murals on the walls. Pat told me that she was a peer advocate at ENKI and that she loved to help people socialize and create.
Pat then took me into a gallery displaying the work of contributors from the center. There were paintings on the wall and sculptures. She then led me to her dollhouse.
“I’m a dollhouse person,” Pat explained. “When I was a little girl, my mother said I bugged her to death. Always wanted a dollhouse of my own.” She would go down to the trash heaps by the Sears Roebuck store in Boyle Heights to collect artifacts. “People would throw out old pieces, and I’d pick them up.” She began creating her own homes.
One day, she found an old real estate vendor box lying atop a pile of junk beside a road that was being torn out. Pat got the old box home and began transforming it. “I had to actually saw the bottom off. That wasn’t easy,” she laughed. She hosed it down, washed it and disinfected it. But when she got the primer on, she couldn’t figure out what to do next. She let it sit around for a few months. It seemed like it was one of those projects that would just never get done.
However, something must have been going on, because Pat got back to it. She painted that old real estate vendor box, primed it and painted it and added windows and a roof.
She says, “I’m the fairy godmother of dollhouses. Long story short, I have too many. But a lot of people live by drugs and drinking. I drown myself in dollhouses; that’s the safest thing I know how to do. Sure, they say I have too many, but I’m not hurting anybody, am I?”
As we were getting in the car to return to Painted Brain, I was thinking,
That artist, and her beautiful dollhouses. It’s why we do this stuff, isn’t it?