A gallery in Portland’s Pearl District features the colorful work of artists who’ve seen many dark days.

“The door doesn’t say gallery for people with mental illness,” said owner Jennifer Pepin. “The idea is artist first, diagnosis second.”

Since opening two-and-a-half years ago, the J. Pepin Art Gallery has displayed and sold the work of more than a dozen artists.

Hanging next to each piece is a story written by the artist describing their medium and their mindset.

“If I didn’t create my symptoms from being bipolar would escalate,” said artist Chris Foster. “There would be no balance.”

Pepin herself left the stress of the corporate world after a bipolar diagnosis.

“I went to a support group and I was surrounded by all this creativity,” she remembered. “ I wanted to create a space to display it.”

Her business has been recognized by NAMI as a Pathfinder and this month Trillium Family Services honors her as a mental health hero.

“The gallery provides a connection,” Foster said. “ I feel connected just knowing people have a way to see my art.”