Why Have Pittsburghers Created Ceramic Masks to Hide Their True Feelings?

The 'I'm Fine.' project comes to Pittsburgh to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Uprep Student Sun Model Smile


“I’m fine.” is a sentiment used by many when they are everything but fine.

Artists Maureen Joyce and Carrie Breschi aim to break the silence surrounding mental health with their initiative entitled “I’m fine.”

“I’m Fine.” is a statewide project that uses art workshops and exhibits to raise mental health awareness. The workshops offer participants the opportunity to express their emotions through the creation of a ceramic mask that represents the mask they wear to hide their mental health struggles. More than 250 masks were created by people in the Pittsburgh community to help break down the barriers.

“Our world is facing a mental health crisis. As artists, we believe in the power of art to ignite change and create new perspectives. We also believe in the community as agents of positive change. It all starts with a conversation,” said Joyce and Breschi in a press release. 

There are five exhibits scheduled around Pittsburgh, with the first one beginning this week. They are all free and open to the public and will showcase 50-70 masks from different workshops along with stories and sculptures. The first show is at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild from March 22-April 5 in conjunction with the All City Visual Arts Exhibit. This installation will feature masks created by more than 60 students from Brashear and UPREP Milliones high schools. 

Other Pittsburgh exhibits are scheduled at the University of Pittsburgh, third floor Hillman Library, from April 7-July 22; Carnegie Mellon University, various locations, April 13-May 5; Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media, border of Point Breeze and Shadyside, May 19-July 22; and Standard Ceramic Supply in Carnegie, July 10-July 29. 

All of the masks will be displayed together at Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media. 1047 

Shady Ave., May 19-July 22. To find addresses and exhibit times, go here. For other questions: Imfine.info@gmail.com.

The “I’m Fine.” project was born when Joyce lost her son, Patrick, to mental health struggles in 2018. 

“After I lost Patrick….I’m an artist, a teacher, a mom and I wasn’t able to fulfill any of my work,” Joyce says in an interview. “Eventually I did find my way to my studio and I started pounding the clay. At that point I realized how helpful that was to me just to manipulate the clay and be back into making art.” 

Joyce worked in clay for 20 years before creating “I’m Fine.” and says she enjoys engaging with community and letting them experience what clay can bring them. 

“We just know the healing power of art in our own expereince of life,” Joyce says. 

More than 1,300 masks have been created since 2019. An exhibit in Harrisburg is planned for May 2024 during Mental Health Awareness Month for an installation showcasing all of the masks created for “I’m Fine.”

“We certainly are very proud of what Pennsylvannia has said, and we’re hoping that the exhibit will be recognized by authorities that can help make a change to mental health policy as well as art and the use of art as a tool,” Joyce says. 

Categories: BeWell, The 412