Live Through This: Fundraiser Held For Suicide Attempt Survivors at Art Machine Productions
On Friday, May 6, Dese’Rae L. Stage, a recent Fishtown transplant, held a fundraiser with help from Art Machine Productions (AMP) (1345 Frankford Ave) for her project, Live Through This.
Live Through This is a series of more than 150 portraits and stories Stage has collected over the past five years from more than 20 cities across the country. Each photo is of a suicide attempt survivor and is accompanied by a story about their experience.
“I did this project because we were essentially erased as attempt survivors,” Stage said. “You never really heard stories of people who lived through attempts. It’s like, not everyone who attempts suicide dies so, what happens?”
It was this same lack of visibility and mental health awareness that resonated with Tim Pangburn, AMP owner, and Will Majors, AMP General Manager. Both of whom lives have been affected by suicide.
Stage originally reached out on Twitter and asked if AMP was interested in working together on a suicide awareness fundraiser. After that, according to Majors and Pangburn, things just fell into place.
“It was one of those things where we all looked at each other and said, ‘this affects a lot more people than we know and there’s not a lot of education on it,’” Majors said. “By meeting Dese’Rae, you start to learn that you’re not the only one. You’re not the only person that’s out there. There are others that feel this way and your story can motivate somebody to go ask for help, talk to a counselor, talk to someone in their church. It can open doors for them. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to break that stigma. This is an illness just like anything else, but if it goes untreated it’s fatal just as much as cancer.”
“These are subjects that carry a really negative stigma in society, when the fact of the matter is we all know somebody who’s dealing with it,” Pangburn said.
Throughout the day on Friday, artists at AMP were giving suicide awareness tattoos to visitors with the proceeds funding Stage’s continued travels to collect stories.
Elizabeth Amber Love, one of the people who came to get tattooed for the event, learned about Live Through This online. Afterwards, Love invited Stage to be interviewed on her podcast, Vodka O’Clock. According to Love, Stage and her just “seemed like kindred spirits.” When she heard about the fundraiser at AMP, Love decided it was a good time to finally get her third tattoo; an ampersand on her wrist.
Love was one of more than 30 people to come out for the event. Stage said at 6 pm when the event was coming to a close, the lobby of AMP was still full of people waiting to show their support and get a tattoo.
According to Stage, getting a tattoo isn’t the only way people can help. Being aware of the struggles many people face surrounding suicide and the things that lead up to it– not to mention the wide swath of people it affects– is a good first step.
“Learn about how you can help,” Stage said. “Because lay people have a lot of power, it’s not just the experts. We even have more power to save lives than even the experts do because we are around the people we love in times of crisis.”
Stage is currently looking for Philadelphians to be subjects for Live Through This for a gallery opening at Art Dept (1638 E. Berks St.) in early 2017. She can be contacted through the project website http://livethroughthis.org/