Music in downtown Modesto an awareness campaign

“Big” Earl Matthews of Big Earl and the Cryin’ Shame will appear at the festival on Saturday.
“Big” Earl Matthews of Big Earl and the Cryin’ Shame will appear at the festival on Saturday. Modesto Bee file

A dose of the blues in downtown Modesto this weekend is geared to raise awareness and help break the stigma of mental illness.

The Modesto Art & Music Extravaganza kicks off the Mental Health Matters initiative, under the umbrella of Each Mind Matters, California’s Mental Health Movement, according to organizer John Black. Black is the CEO of Peer Recovery Art Project, a Modesto nonprofit that provides support for people struggling in their mental health and those recovering from illnesses, addiction and other issues.

“This year the state decided to ask communities across the state to host their own awareness events,” Black said in an email interview. “Our event is (part of) a series of events that roll on across the state in ... May, which is mental health awareness month.”

The purpose of the admission-free family festival is to end the stigma associated with mental illness as well as to support downtown businesses.

“(The event is) not a fundraiser but an awareness raiser and business booster. ‘Buy local’ means there will not be outside food or drink nor any manufactured merchandise allowed. It’s all about (touting) Modesto proud and loud,” Black said.

It’s also part of Peer Recovery’s long-standing goals.

“The emotional health and wellness campaign is why Peer Recovery Art Project exists. Our model focuses not only on the needs of those persons with personal ... experience with mental health (issues) but the whole community ... as well. By doing that we believe the business community as well as the health services community can stand united as one to make the statement ‘each mind matters and each city matters,’” Black said.

As for the music, it will be the “blues, my friend, nothing but blues, with that rockabilly beat thrown in,” Black said. The artists performing are part of the homegrown music scene: Big Earl and the Cryin’ Shame, Patty Castillo Davis, Rob Hill and Tony Trevino. DJ Savage Salvador will provide music between sets. Also planned are an art show, custom cars, speakers and dancing.

While the forecast is for showers on Saturday, the event will go on, rain or shine, he said.

Similar music festivals have been organized by the Peer Recovery Arts Project over the years, as part of its outreach program.

The Peer Recovery Art Project took 65 people to the state capitol in 2014 for a Mental Health Matters rally sponsored by Each Mind Matters, part of the Mental Health Service Act’s anti-stigma program, Black said.

The act, passed in 2004 under Proposition 63, provides “funding and framework needed to transform the community mental health system from a crisis-driven system to one focused on prevention and wellness and to expand services to reach previously underserved populations and all of California’s diverse communities,” according to Each Mind Matters’ website. The act provides funding for community services and supports prevention and early intervention, housing, innovations, capital facilities, technology and workforce investment and training.


WHEN: Saturday, April 25, 11 a.m. welcoming remarks; noon to 6 p.m. music

WHERE: 10th Street Plaza, Modesto


CALL: (209) 985-0467