How alum Sarah McGinnis uses art to promote mental health awareness across the country

Headshot of Sarah McGinnis
Sarah McGinnis | Photo by Charlene Champion

The next time you reach for a tissue, you might see an uplifting message and cheery artwork on the box thanks to PSOA alum Sarah McGinnis (BFA 2013, Art: Design & Visual Communication). 

Work by McGinnis is showcased in Target stores nationwide as a featured artist in an ongoing collaboration between Kleenex and Self Care is for Everyone, a collective working to raise mental health awareness.  

For McGinnis, it’s a project that not only touches the lives of others but also reflects her own journey with mental health. 

A Creative Collaboration 

The project began when McGinnis pitched a collaboration between Kleenex and Self Care is for Everyone at Kay James Design where she served as Art Director. McGinnis went into the pitch as a fan of Self Care is for Everyone and their approach to mental health awareness. 

While McGinnis did not create art the first year, she served as art director on the project, a role she found to be deeply meaningful. 

“It was such a fulfilling project,” said McGinnis. “I was giving these artists an outlet and exposure on a big brand, in a big store, getting these messages out to the public. It just felt like a win-win.” 

Following a successful year, McGinnis’s Creative Director approached her about being a featured artist. Despite some initial self-doubts, McGinnis recognized she had a story to tell. 

As a featured artist, work by McGinnis is showcased on Kleenex boxes available at Target stores nationwide | Submitted photo

Meaning behind the designs 

Using her history of mental health challenges as inspiration, McGinnis created two designs to be featured on Kleenex boxes. 

The first design includes the quote “Vulnerability isn’t weakness, it is courageous,” accompanied by an illustration of a rainbow with clouds. The second, which is McGinnis’s personal favorite, is an abstract checkerboard featuring the quote “Everyone is a work in progress.” 

“I’m a work in progress, you’re a work in progress,” said McGinnis. “Somebody that is maybe having a bad day and taking it out on me; they’re a work in progress too. I think that one’s a really good reminder to slow down and not take things too seriously sometimes.” 

While creating her designs, McGinnis thought back to her time living in Milwaukee, expressing appreciation for the city’s emphasis on embracing unique viewpoints. 

“The Milwaukee community is just so accepting of different points of view and different levels of experience,” said McGinnis, adding that people in the city are “always striving to make things better and to meet people where they’re at when needed.” 

Connecting with others 

McGinnis hopes those who see her messages get extra courage to ask for help when needed. 

Recently, she interacted with somebody who got one of her designs. The individual described how their recent battles with obsessive compulsive disorder made the box deeply meaningful to her.  

“Somebody saw it, they felt seen, and they took away from it that they should feel proud of their achievements,” said McGinnis. “Honestly, even that one positive interaction with that person is all I can really ask for.”  

Learn more about Sarah McGinnis ’13 on her website.

Story by Jason McCullum ’25