Today we’d like to introduce you to Elie Kennedy.
Elie, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I’m a mother on a mission, I’m a survivor of suicide loss. I lost my son to suicide on July 13, 2015. His name was Anthony aka’ Ant, he was only 29, a little over a month before his 30th birthday. My world fell apart as I knew it.
Shortly after his passing, my husband and I went to our favorite family beach spot up in Carlsbad. I painted some rocks and made a huge memorial. The locals know not to touch them. We came back weeks later and my husband said,”there’s one of your rocks”. I said, “no way they all got washed away”. When I saw what rock was left behind. It was the one that said, ANT with a heart. I was stunned and thought. He wants me to paint rocks. So, I started painting rocks and raising funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
AFSP was the 1st organization that came up in my search for help. I had been selling my painted rocks to co-workers, friends and family. Then I started selling them at small craft fairs including the California Women’s Museum. At one of the events, I was at. I met an artist, now good friend, Melody De Los Cobos. She asked me if I’d like to be a part of an art show series. I reluctantly and excitedly said, “yes, but I paint on rocks”. So, I thought ok, what can I do. I know! I will express myself by sharing, “My Journey Through Suicide Loss”.
I was, I am a mother driven to create. To express my deep grief and sadness through my art. Reaching out to others that are suffering with depression. I try to channel the painful energy to create something beautiful and positive. With my son in mind, always. Sharing my story, bringing awareness and breaking the stigma surrounded by suicide.
People know me, as the Artivist for Suicide Prevention. I’ve participated in several art shows as a mixed media Artivist. With no formal training, just a passion to reach out to those who are struggling. Every piece of art sold, goes to AFSP. AFSP saved my life. I felt welcomed, supported, understood and loved. In 2017, I became one of the Board members for the AFSP San Diego Chapter. I became a part of AFSP participating in the walks and volunteering as part of my healing. Every suicide loss is a personal loss to me. I take every opportunity I can to reach out.
At my work we had a couple co-workers die by suicide in the past several years. So I decided to start leaving painted rocks around the parking lot for my co-workers to find. They’re colorful and inspirational. It brings me joy to my broken heart. To see the enjoyment the smiles it brings to others. I feel like it’s the highlight of the morning for most.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I started painting rocks and raising funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. On behalf of my son, Anthony. As my own healing process through grief and depression. I also create mixed media pieces that always have a message of my journey. Hoping to help others that can relate. I want people to know that they matter. That there is hope. That there are other people struggling just like them, like me. I’m a fighter, for my son, for my family even though there’s days I think I have no more fight in me.
I think of those who are struggling. I cannot fathom another parent or loved one having to feel this deep overwhelming pain from grief. We just need a doorway to an open and safe place to talk and express ourselves. And I think I’ve done that. I recently had a couple events, 1 story of a young man and his girlfriend came up to me. The male especially was taken back by my art pieces. He had told me he was suicidal in the recent past. I told him, “my sons pain didn’t end there, it transferred to me a million times fold”. He tapped his heart with his full palm multiple times. And hugged me multiple times.
His demeanor changed and softened. I believe it opened his eyes as to what could happen to those he loved. Another young lady came by. I stepped back to watch her reactions to my artwork. Streams of tears came rolling down her face. I stepped up and held and comforted her as she wept. Then told her about what each piece was about. I’m amazed at the impact it has on people that can relate. 100% of the funds form my painted rocks and artwork go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on behalf of my son.
How can artists connect with other artists?
I actually like the alone time. It gives me time to sort out my thoughts. To be able to be able to create and not have any distractions. Gives me the time to heal and let the dust settle from everything. To be present and in the moment.
My advice, get out there baby steps. Once you finally decide to put your art piece out there. It’s like something magical happens. The other artists will become your greatest supporters and friends. Once you get involved it’ll turn into a snowball effect. So many great shows to get involved with. With so many talented artists, curators and galleries. Don’t worry about what your art pieces look like.
Art is not perfect. If you love to draw, paint, sculpt and want people to see your art. Put it out there someone will like it. Lose the fear of not being good enough. Go to the art shows, art mixers, events I guarantee you will meet like-minded individuals.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I participate in a couple shows and events each month locally. Lately, they’ve been at Mike Hess, curated by Cayce Hanalei Wheelock of Hanalei Artworks. Subterrarean Coffee Boutique in Hillcrest and North Park curated by Jennifer Cooksey and Thumbprint Gallery. Iron Fist Brewery in Barrio Logan curated by Melody De Los Cobos of ChicanaLilly Studio.
I’ve also participated in the 1st Fridays at the California Women’s Museum in Liberty station. Basic Bar downtown by Thumbprint Gallery called Forward Fridays. Forward Fridays is a monthly event aimed at making a difference every third Friday in downtown. A selected non-profit will be rotated periodically. And most recently, “The Path” a mental wellness event at The Dojo Cafe by The SD Urban Beats. Coming up I’ll be a part of the Art Around Adams event.
Which is a 2-mile art walk off of Adams Ave on Sat June 2nd. I’ll be located at the Black Market Bakery 4686 30th St right off of Adams Ave. I’ll have available my painted rocks for sale. Where 100% of the funds will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on behalf of my son, Anthony. A gift to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention helps fund our mission to save lives and give hope to those affected by suicide.
I’m constantly on social media to promote any shows and or events that I’m participating in. To let those know who are struggling that I will be available and open to speak with them. Giving them my undivided attention, love and support without judgment.
Out of Darkness Walk Event Details
Date: Saturday, October 27th
Location: Liberty Station NTC Park (2600 Cushing Rd – San Diego, CA 92106)
Walker Check-In/Registration Time: 8:00am – 9:30am
Resource Fair & Survivor Activities Start: 8:00 am
Opening Ceremony Begins: 9:30 am
Event Ends: 12:00pm
For more information, please contact:
Name: San Diego Walk Committee
Phone: Che Hernandez, Walk Co-Chair #858-776-1454
Email: Che Hernandez, Walk Co-Chair – firstname.lastname@example.org AND Danielle McGonigle, Walk Co-Chair – email@example.com
You can join my personal mission to fight suicide. By purchasing my artwork, donating and or joining TEAM ANTHONY. ROCK your best MOHAWK, faux hawk, feather hawk, hat hawk in memory of my son. \m/
- Website: www.afsp.org
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: elie2us
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elie.kennedy.1