The Jacket

About The Jacket

The Jacket is a virtual radical mental health collage, highlighting the writing, artwork, and creations of people with self-defined lived experience with connections to the Greater Pittsburgh Area and Southwestern Pennsylvania. We acknowledge lived experience to include individuals who identify as M/mad, mentally ill, neurodivergent, psychiatric survivors, trauma survivors, and all other related conceptualizations of mental health, including those who do not use mental health labels. We hope this project will showcase the range of experiences, perspectives, and ideas of people with lived experience while driving more art-related opportunities and inquiries to writers, artists, and creators in our community.

The name “The Jacket” is a homage to Agnes Richter, a Victorian-era German seamstress who, while confined in a psychiatric institution without access to writing materials, embroidered the inside of her institutional jacket with lines of seemingly autobiographical text. Agnes’ jacket encapsulates much of the nuance surrounding art made by people who have interacted with the mental health system – a narrative of resistance and self-determination, but also co-optation and exploitation. Agnes ultimately died at the institution, unable to have autonomy regarding the showing, interpretation, or monetization of her jacket, which is currently held in the Prinzhorn Collection at University Hospital Heidelberg.

This project is part of the Storytelling As Activism series, curated by Inside Our Minds, a project of New Sun Rising. Funding for this project is provided by Opportunity Fund. The posts on this website do not necessarily reflect the views of any individuals or organizations involved.

Project Curators: Alyssa Cypher, Micah Shelton, Jordan Weeks

Photograph of a handmade jacket with embroidered text of many colors all over the fabric. The jacket is old, gray in color, and the sleeves are uneven.
Agnes’ Jacket, photograph from Prinzhorn Collection, University Hospital Heidelberg