If the walls at Columbus' Cultural Arts Center could talk, they would tell the stories of Ohioans affected by substance abuse and addiction. Artist Nora Daniel says her painting, 'Crackers', started as an experience from her past.

“This image was basically in my mind for 30 years,” says Daniel, whose large canvas painting is one of the first visitors see in the exhibit. “It kept asking me to paint so finally I did, and I'm glad to get it out finally.”

A friend who struggled with substance abuse disorder left an impact.

“I was rehabbing his apartment while he was in rehab,” says Daniel. “And, I saw the walls and the room, and you know it just never left me.”

Show co-curator Bev Goldie says art helped her process and cope with a loved one's recovery.

“It affected our whole family but especially me as a mom,” says Goldie, who explains her loved one is now sober and thriving. “Through my art i've been able to articulate way better than any writing or expressing to anyone else what my feelings were.”

But, helping her loved one recover also had an traumatic effect on her

“People affected by other folks that are addicted,” says Goldie. “They go through almost as much turbulence as the addicted themselves.”

She pitched the idea for Operation Monarch to the Cultural Arts Center, monarch representing the change people in recovery go through. They partnered with Southeast Healthcare Services, which operates its own gallery for people living with substance abuse or mental illness.

“I think that people that have had addiction issues who are in recovery, or who are in their recovery journey, use art as a creative process,” says Pullins. “It allows for them to dedicate a lot of time and hard work and preservation in their process and that can be very healing for them.”

The volume of artists who answered the call for submissions shocked Pullins and Goldie.

“Well we were overwhelmed by the response,” says Pullins. “We have over 64 artists represented in this show, by 87 pieces of their work from over 40 ZIP codes in Ohio. 

“It's everybody's story,” said Goldie. “And, many of them we teared up looking at them as curators.”

The show is open through May. It's free, and it's meant to spark conversation.

“Talking about addiction and substance abuse, right now, is very important,” says Pullins. “It helps break down the stigma, and helps folks understand that addiction is a disease.”

Daniel says she wants people to connect with the emotion in 'Crackers'.

“I hope they get comfort and also can relate to it, with their experiences and can feel the angst and the despair,” says Daniel.

Pullins says that connection, and promoting education around substance abuse disorder, is the goal of Operation Monarch.

“There may be individuals that have not been affected by substance abuse disorders,” says Pullins. “And, by coming to the Cultural Arts Center and seeing this exhibition they can relate and understand what's going on in our world.​