How this St. Petersburg artist turns trauma into art

PETERSBURG, Va. — Mental health has been the center of attention for many this year, especially after the pandemic and a series of mass shootings across the country.

The heaviness of the world is not lost on Tre Simms. He knows the community faces devastating headlines every day.

The Petersburg native, known for his abstract art paintings, relies even more on his creative outlet amid trauma.

“It helped me deal with my daily stress in a way that I can now express myself because I’m not the best at verbalizing. But when I make art, I feel free and I have the ability and I don’t feel limited,” Simms said.

His life’s work, Artzbytre, is inspired by famous abstract artists Pollock and Basquiat and Simms enjoys sharing it with the community.

“What you see in the collection to the right of me are Basquiat-inspired pieces, but it’s with my own twist. So when I made my own version of it, I had to think outside the box and use different materials and I used charcoal and acrylic colored markers,” Simms explained.

With each carefully crafted piece, this is the message behind the artwork that Simms hopes to shine through.

“Art is very therapeutic and can be for anyone. Whether they have mental health issues or not. Art, for tens of thousands of years, has been around, actually helps you express yourself It can tell a story and art can capture the story,” Simms said.

The deeply personal works of art in his Angel collection helped him cope with emotional loss. His series of abstract art masks blends his love of art and theater that he cultivated while attending high school in Petersburg.

Simms plans to share it all at his first solo show Friday at a studio on West Old Street in Petersburg. It’s his way of giving back to the place that led him to his life’s passion.

“Friday will be a free event. I’ll be exhibiting all of my art. Proceeds will go to Petersburg High School’s art program and I’ll talk about mental health and how very therapeutic art has been,” Simms said. .

It’s something he hopes can inspire and lead others to their own healing.


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