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Akron artists increase awareness of mental health by creating emotion-filled art

The "Any Means Necessary" brand acknowledges mental health and connects to fans by sharing their own struggles through their artwork.

AKRON, Ohio — For Akron artist Shawn Coss, this is much more than a workspace. It's where he grapples with things. 

"I call it darkness. You know, I deal with my own. I battle with depression so a lot of the pieces I create, I channel that type of darkness and it's like my therapy," he says.

Coss' art is dark, with imagery that evokes feelings of anxiety, loneliness, even dread. But the "Any Means Necessary" brand is actually one of resilience. Coss says it's represented by the hyena. "They don't give up...Whatever you got to do to succeed, find that next meal, and that pack mentality." 

He calls his followers his pack and they are fiercely loyal.

For eight years, Shawn and co-owner Mike Nemitz, have used their art to support mental health awareness. They have a whole line of clothing, prints, and Shawn has even written two books about his personal struggles with mental illness. "This is what I feel at some of my darkest times," he says. "And so I try to capture that moment, but by doing so, offer some sort of positivity to other people who see it and go "Oh, I'm not alone in feeling that way."

Giving feelings many can't describe, a face. One they can look at and just maybe start to understand. Coss sees the connection his art makes with people. "We all struggle with something and some of us have a hard time functioning through it. We need more understanding and awareness of that."

You can see all the art, books, and clothing on their website. 

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