247: Protected, Cared For, Cured, and Released, 2020
Cyanotypes on Sheets
Stack of sheets is approximately 32”x95”x63”

Central State Hospital (1842-2010), like most mental institutions of its time, has a very dark past. My extensive research of this institution is primarily conducted at the Special Collections Library and the Georgia Archives where I read handwritten notes, patient registrars, newspaper articles, and a variety of booklets and schedules. This research has complicated my understanding of and relationship to the complex history of Central State Hospital including the problematic past that lead to the rejection of the Open Door Policy of 1973.

In September of 1973, Dr. Gary Miller, head of the State Division of Mental Health, directed that the Open Door Policy would be implemented at Central State Hospital by October 1973. The Open Door Policy gave patients in the Freeman Building more freedom to move about if approved by doctors. They could come and go from the building and visit the neighboring town of Milledgeville if desired. The policy affected 247 patients at Central State Hospital. Political tensions between then Governor Jimmy Carter and Senator Culver Kidd brought the Open Door Policy into the limelight creating open criticism between those that were either for or against the policy. Kidd was accused of using scare tactics and deliberately praying on the patients at Central State Hospital, as well as riling up the citizens of Milledgeville to begin a petition to oppose the new policy. Carter is quoted as having said, “we look on mental patients as someone to be protected, cared for, cured, and released, not kept there to support the economic structure of a community.”

My work, 247: Protected, Cared For, Cured, and Released, is a symbolic response to the Open Door Policy and the patients that were effected by it. The 247 twin sheets create a cameraless photograph of the shadow of the Freeman Building, where the Open Door Policy was implemented. This body of work focuses on the forgotten, the neglected, the abandoned. It focuses on the people who were uprooted from their homes and admitted into a place with a horrifying reputation and the fear they must have felt. The buildings that they lived in; that they died in, that forever changed them are the subject of my recent multi-media exploration of a well-known, defunct mental institution, in Milledgeville, Georgia.

All research for the Open Door Policy was completed at the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies using Atlanta Constitution newspaper articles from 1973. 

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