ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A new exhibition is opening this weekend at the Orange County Regional History Museum that is shedding light on drug addiction and overdose.
If eyes are the window to our souls, then Theresa Clower hopes visitors to the exhibit see beyond the portraits of people who died from drug overdoses.
“The eyes are so critical to me and I feel that, and I feel that these individuals, all of them that are in this exhibition, were human like all of us,” Clower said.
Clower founded the nonprofit INTO LIGHT Project. She is traveling around the country and displaying portraits she drew of people who died from substance use disorders. The organization made its sixth stop at the Orange County Regional History Center where 41 portraits of Floridians and their stories told by their loved ones are on display.
But she said the first portrait is personal.
“I lost my son Devin to a drug poisoning, a fentanyl overdose, four years ago and at that time, as a way of working through my grief,” she said.
Clower said she intentionally uses graphite to spread this message.
“It’s very intentional that we’re all made up of black and white and no one should be defined by their darkest moments,” she said.
Dr. Thomas Hall with the Orange County Drug Free Office worked with Clower to bring the project to Central Florida. He said last year, 91,000 people in the U.S. died from overdose.
Hall said the COVID-19 pandemic made the crisis work.
“It was a very difficult transition, and it was very sad. I know some people who relapse because they didn’t have that face-to-face, in-person support,” Hall said.
Catherine Duffy, the chief curator for the history center, said she hopes the display erases the stigma surrounding addiction by sharing these stories and putting a face to the disease.
“It’s important that we recognize this is an issue that our community faces every day. It’s one that we’ve been battling for months and it’s one that we all have a responsibility to help each other through,” Duffy said.
The INTO LIGHT Project exhibition opens on Saturday and runs through April 15. Admission to the display is included with your admission to the history center. Click here for more information.