Kelly and Josiah Trager worked a winding path to get back to the professions they love: the arts and the business of establishing community bonds between artists and art-lovers.

"It’s a nice relationship both with our artists and the community, and for ourselves personally, to get back to our first loves,” Josiah says. "We wanted a city that had both arts and culture, and Charleston was top of the list every time.”

Before arriving in Charleston and opening up their art gallery Trager Contemporary, Josiah and Kelly, both from New York and with backgrounds in the performing arts, had transitioned into careers as lawyers.

In Charleston, they decided to return to their previous artistic roots. While Kelly still has a hand in law, they say their newest project stems from their own passions.

"This is another facet of building a community and representing artists and their interests,” Kelly says. "It’s just another click on the dial for me."

Together their combined energy and focus is on the mission of their new gallery. And it’s a multi-faceted mission that includes community engagement with art, providing a welcoming space for art lovers and creating a broad dialogue about culture and contemporary art.

Their first community event is 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16. In coordination with MUSC’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, the gallery is hosting a fundraiser entitled "A.R.T. of Mental Health (Academics, Research, and Treatment)."

“(The fundraiser) fits within with our mission,” Kelly says. "We see these types of partnerships with the community as a way to help out a great cause and bring a larger audience to art and its benefits. I don’t think anyone doesn’t know someone who has been affected by mental illness. It is always there and is not always given the same care as the diagnosis of a physical ailment.”

It’s a cause that might not be as prevalent as other medical issues, but requires constant attention and work, Josiah says.

“We're engaged with MUSC’s mission to remove the stigma of mental health,” he says. "Art therapy is very important in both mental and physical rehabilitation and (mental illness) needs as much or more attention than it is getting.”

Together, the Tragers are donating proceeds from ticket sales, along with 10 percent of the proceeds from purchased art during the event. There’s a raffle for a watercolor by Charleston-inspired gallery artist Radu Dumitrescu.

Other gallery artists, including Kelly Chelena, Rebecca Gottesman and Tony Gill, also will be on hand for the event, which includes live music by the Laura Dyer Trio, beer, wine and appetizers.

"We want to help the community in any way we can,” Josiah says.

Admission tickets are available at artofmentalhealth.eventbrite.com and at tragercontemporary.com/exhibitions.php.

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