Jasmine Green, who wrestled with depression and anxiety as a teen, didn’t know how to express her feelings to her family and friends. Now 28, she wants to help other girls — especially other young Black women — who may have mental health issues of their own from feeling as lost as she did.
It’s why Green, a painter who creates under the moniker Black Girl Absolute, is writing a book titled, “A Field Guide for Blue Girls,” a mix of art and poetry centering on how Black girls navigate mental health.
“It’s a book inspired by my own struggles with mental health as a young girl and, through growing older and seeing how the other girls around me are struggling with mental health, trying to provide some sort of guidelines to let people know they’re not alone,” says Green, of Regent Square.
“A lot of the help out there isn’t directed toward us.”
In July, Green will travel to Dayton, Wyoming, as the first person to be awarded the Exposure Tongue River Artist/Activist Residency, a program of The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Exposure Artists Program. Sponsored by the foundation and the Tongue River Residency, the monthlong residency is meant to support artists from varying backgrounds and to advocate for racial justice in the arts community.
“I’m super honored that I was the one who was chosen for this. I’m grateful for the opportunity, truly,” says Green, who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018 and is the director of education for 1Hood Media. “I’m going to be spending my time figuring out how much art I want in the book, how much poetry and how much prose.”
She’ll stay on the property owned by artist Jeanette Schubert and her husband Doug Gouge, who co-founded the Tongue River Residency in 2019. The couple split their time between Pittsburgh’s East End, where they have lived most of their lives, and Wyoming. A small residence and studio will be Green’s for three to four weeks.
“This residency is an opportunity for us to inspire positive change while also elevating the work of artists and activists,” says Schubert. “The arts make such a huge impact in communities but, historically, the arts and artists have not been well-funded, especially artists of color. We want to address that lack of equity.”
The residency does not require Green to present a completed work; it’s meant to provide an artist with a quiet place to rest, reflect, create and explore their vision. In addition to the time away, she’ll receive a $10,000 grant.
Dayton, with a population of about 1,000, sits at the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains in northeastern Wyoming. The largest town, Sheridan (pop. 18,000), is 21 miles away. In the area, there are museums, galleries and other artists, but mostly this will be a chance to reflect in the open space of the American West.
“They sent a welcome packet with photos of the scenery and it’s absolutely gorgeous,” Green says.
She is looking forward to spending time alone in the wooded area with her cat Sophia, who will go along. They fly out on July 5, but the return date isn’t set. Green says the residency gives her time to work on her book and immerse herself in thoughts about her life — the past and what lies ahead.
During high school, Green tried to talk with guidance counselors about her feelings of sadness and hopelessness, but it wasn’t until the final years of her undergraduate work at Pitt that she found a therapist who helped her.
“That was one of the biggest motivators [for writing the book],” she says. “I wish someone would have told me it’s OK, there’s help out there, there’s hope.”
Though she is still undiagnosed, Greens says she is neurodivergent, a concept that basically describes uniqueness in cognitive functioning. Being a survivor of mental health issues is “a continual process,” she says.
“It’s a theme I want to touch upon in the book, how you learn to live with it, how you recognize the signs that things could get bad, how you reach out for support,” she says. “Working with the therapist was helpful to come up with ways to cope. It’s about finding ways to live with everything that’s going on and still finding the things that bring you joy.”
In Pittsburgh, Green works out of her home studio and sometimes teaches art to young people. Drawing, she says, “was my first form of therapy. I don’t necessarily consider myself the most eloquent speaker so oftentimes, when I’m talking, things get jumbled in my brain. Through art I can disentangle those thoughts and focus, get out of my head for a little bit. I know it’s been a balm for me in my life.”
She’s been thinking of pulling together her artwork and poetry into a book for a couple of years.
“I probably won’t have all the art finished by the time the residency is over, but I hope to have all the concepts,” she says. “I would like it to be ready by the end of this year, or early in the beginning of next year.”
The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Exposure Artists Program is a new arts funding initiative that aims to elevate the work of artists through activities that enhance the creative process. Residency nominations were accepted in an invitation-only process and Green was selected by foundation staff and the residency founders.
Exposure awarded its first round of grants this year, distributing $215,000 in 12 awards to support individual artists and collectives, including transformative justice grants to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) artists who are activists — Green calls herself an “artivist” — and those who had never received foundation funding.