Artists respond to anxiety and mental health in on-campus exhibition

“Peace, Be Still: Artists of Faith Respond to an Anxious Age” art exhibition sparks conversations about the intersection between anxiety and Christian faith.


Haven Luper-Jasso//CHIMES

The “Peace, Be Still” art exhibit invites attendees to wrestle with the tension between anxiety and faith.

Fashion Castillo-Delgadillo, Arts and Entertainment Editor

As the sun began to set on Oct. 25, students across campus and in the local community gathered at the Green Art Gallery to celebrate Biola’s newest art exhibition, “Peace, Be Still: Artists of Faith Respond to an Anxious Age.” The exhibition features a total of 29 different pieces and 21 Christian artists in various parts of the world and their response to the question of “How does my experience of faith intersect with the lived reality of anxiety in my life and the lives of those in my community?” 


With a packed house, attendees were practically shoulder to shoulder as they perused the pieces on display and interacted with each piece individually. Some of the artists gathered around their pieces with family and loved ones as they celebrated their accomplishments. Biola University Gallery Director Jeffery Rau explained he hopes that the Green Art Gallery prompts conversation surrounding the pieces while on display. 

“I hope that it’s a space that invites conversation,” Rau said.  “It invites people to respond through their own point of view and through their own experiences.”

The exhibition as a whole specifically works with college students experiencing increasing levels of anxiety and apprehension in their educational journey. The Malcolm Initiative for Art in Evangelism and Missions, a new project donor at Biola exploring the intersection between art and mission opportunities, had a conversation with the Upside Down Gallery, a ministry of Jews for Jesus in Los Angeles. Their dialogue sparked the idea of hosting an exhibition to foster conversations about people of faith wrestling with anxiety. 


Alicia Fregoso, junior intercultural and Spanish major, explains that her artwork, titled “I Will Remember (Psalm 77),” draws inspiration from Scripture to capture themes of crying out to God and not being comforted, questioning God and choosing to remember His goodness and what He has done despite the struggles. 

“These themes are very personal to me in my struggle with anxiety, especially religion-based anxiety and OCD, and it represents the reality of mental illness even when we pray for healing and have faith in God,”  Fregoso said. “The woman depicted in the drawing looks to God and yet, so experiences mental turmoil. It also shows the yearning for God’s help. And lastly, God’s goodness through it all is revealed through the white highlights on the face.” 

Fregoso hopes that the exhibition and her artwork build a community surrounding the reality of mental health struggles within the Christian community and remind people of God’s goodness.

“I hope it helps people realize the true reality of mental illness and that like I said, it doesn’t mean any lack of faith or any lack of prayer or anything,” Fregoso said. “It’s just the reality we live in, and how sometimes it’s just the brokenness of the simple world and humanity.”

“Sometimes we don’t always have easy answers. But just [create] a place for people who do struggle to find comfort — and people who maybe don’t struggle in those areas, just to either have more compassion or just be able to see more of who we are as a student body.”


Alongside Fregoso’s “I Will Remember (Psalm 77),” the gallery features a wide variety of artists at all stages of their career, ranging from student artists to well-established professionals. A guest jury — consisting of Nery Gabriel Lemus, professional artist and educator in Altadena, California, Melissa Moskowitz Goldsmith, founder and art consultant of Upside Down Gallery and Cafe in Westwood, California and Natalie Anderson, Marriage & Family Therapist at The Anxiety and Depression Center in Newport Beach, California — narrowed down the selection from over sixty submissions to represent a variety of content. Each of the jurors also awarded four pieces in the collection with Jurors Choice and Best in Show. 

Lemus awarded spring 2022 Biola alumna Eden Delavara with Juror’s Choice for “Late at night, praying in my room.” Goldsmith selected “Shepherd (Blood Cells for my Dad)” by Kari Dunham, Biola adjunct professor, to receive Juror’s Choice. Anderson also selected a Juror’s Choice to go to “I Will Remember (Psalm 77)” by Alicia Fregoso. 

The three jurors awarded Krystyny Vandenberg’s “An All Too Quick Year” as Best In Show. The Biola alumna recently completed her MFA at Otis College of Art and Design where the artwork was previously displayed for her senior thesis. The artwork is a reminder of how pandemic life heightened many of existing feelings surrounding anxiety and mental health. 

As one of the first partnerships between the Malcolm Initiative and Upside Down Gallery, conversations surrounding additional projects are in the works for Biola students. In late January and early February, the gallery will be moving to the Upside Down Gallery in Westwood, CA to be on display to additional audiences in Los Angeles. The Malcolm Initiative also plans to host a series of additional events throughout the year, including a Bob Bennett Concert and Conversations program on Nov. 18, to delve deeper into the intersection of artistry and the missions. 

“When it becomes an opportunity to share and to speak with others, especially on the topic of anxiety, I think, the more that we can prompt openness about dialogue with one another and seek the supportive community when facing these kinds of challenging concerns, that’s always a good thing,” said Rau.

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