‘What’s Left: lives touched by suicide,’ opens in Grand Rapids

An image from the "What's Left" exhibit, opening Friday, Sept. 4 at the MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. PHOTO: Jim Brandenburg

An image from the “What’s Left” exhibit, opening Friday, Sept. 4 at the MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. (PHOTO: Jim Brandenburg)

Last spring I wrote about a personal story as it related to my friend and colleague John Bauer’s project to open dialogue about the effects of suicide on the people left behind by their loved one. He successfully funded the project, which is entitled “What’s Left.” The exhibit will open Friday, Sept. 4 at the MacRostie Art Center in downtown Grand Rapids, Minnesota with a gallery opening from 4-8 p.m. as part of the MAC’s “First Friday” events. After a month in Grand Rapids, the exhibit will go on the road to locations around Minnesota.

From the MacRostie press release:

Suicide and mental illness are major health problems that affect everyone. The topic is often viewed as taboo, and family members left behind can feel stigmatized and unable to talk openly about their experience and grief. What’s Left provides a space for participating artists and the broader community to reflect on the impact of suicide and mental illness and explore the use of artistic expression in the process of grieving, healing, and expressing hope.

The project originated with Grand Rapids resident John Bauer who lost his daughter Megan to suicide in 2013. Bauer’s experience in the aftermath of his family’s tragedy is what sparked the idea for an art exhibit as a way to encourage community conversation.

“Whether on the phone or on the street, most people just didn’t know what to say to me,” said Bauer. “How could they if they haven’t been through something so horrific. To develop a vocabulary for talking about suicide, we have to be able to talk about mental illness as well. Not in whispers or disrespectful laughter. We need a culture shift where we all take responsibility for addressing the stigma associated with suicide and mental illness. That burden should not be on me and myfamily alone, nor should it fall to other families who have come before or after us.”

Over 45 of Minnesota’s finest artists working in painting, poetry, sculpture, graffiti, glass, fiber, photography, and more have contributed artwork to the project. Audience members of What’s Left will also have the chance to listen to an interactive audio installation of stories from survivors.

What’s Left is a traveling exhibit with a goal of reducing the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness and raising awareness about mental health recovery and suicide prevention. The exhibit is designed to be displayed in a wide variety of settings including community centers, art galleries, schools, and libraries. After its debut in Grand Rapids, the exhibit will be available to travel to communities across the state.

The gallery opening is sponsored by Northland Counseling Center. The project itself was funded by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, thanks to appropriations from the Minnesota State Legislature’s general and arts and cultural heritage funds. Additional funding is provided by the Blandin Foundation, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, Miller-Dwan Foundation, Northland Foundation, and many private donors.

Screen shot from John Bauer's Kickstarter video raising money for his "What's Left" project to open dialogue about mental health and suicide in our community.

Screen shot from John Bauer’s Kickstarter video raising money for his “What’s Left” project to open dialogue about mental health and suicide in our community. The successfully funded project will  open with a collection of collaborative photos, essays and other forms of art at the MacRostie Art Center in downtown Grand Rapids, Minnesota, on Sept. 4, 2015.


  1. Thanks for this, Aaron. As a society we need to spend a lot more time and effort on mental health issues. They effect most of us at some time and the stigma attached makes it difficult to find or get help. Raising awareness is a good step toward understanding.

  2. Joan Beech says

    We do not have words quite often when suicide or attempts of suicide happen. This exhibit opens the conversation with art – expressions that go beyond words. Thank you for spreading the word!

  3. This is such an amazing idea! It’s such a horrible feeling to go through something like this and feel like you can’t talk about. Awareness will hopefully help in the attampt to end the stigma. I really hope this exhibit will be coming to the southwest part of Minnesota. How can I find out the locations?

  4. Yolanda Pindegayosh says

    Can I get a listing of the tour locations and dates. I would love to attend this, but cannot make it to grand rapids.

  5. So moved by your write-up and by the photographs offered here – Brandenburg’s bird, the crowdsourcing group portrait screenshot. Many thanks for letting us know about this upcoming exhibit, I will not miss it.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.