I'm one of the founders of The Awakenings Project. We're a small but vibrant organization based in Wheaton that teaches, mentors and otherwise supports artists, musicians and writers who have mental illnesses.
We had an awesome beginning. In 1997 the forerunner to The Awakenings Project put on an art exhibit at the annual meeting of the Illinois chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Naperville. Our artists were very special people back then (still are). Some had bipolar, some had schizophrenia, others were saddled with depression, and others suffered with anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder.
The Awakenings ProjectThe Awakenings Project encourages people who have mental illnesses to express their creativity and possibly find some healing through art, writing, music and drama. The Wheaton-based nonprofit organizes an annual art show, publishes a literary review and operates a drop-in art studio at 164 Division, #415, Elgin. For information, call or visit awakeningsproject.org. To join the Human Race in support of The Awakenings Project, visit dupagehumanrace.org.
At first our goals were modest. We thought we would be lucky if we brought together a dozen artists for the NAMI show. We didn't just get 12 artists, we got four times that many. The show was a huge success. We've been going strong ever since. We're now a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization with dozens of members, a board of directors and an artists studio.
We've put up art exhibits all over Illinois and the United States: Chicago, Oak Park, Springfield, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., and other venues too numerous to mention.
We do a lot more than art shows. In 2000, with guidance from the University of Chicago, we began a literary magazine, The Awakenings Review. Writers and poets from nearly every state have been published in our review, as well as writers from a half-dozen foreign countries. Our beautiful journal has been widely acclaimed and we're going into our seventh volume this year.
Awakenings also supports musicians. We produced a terrific CD recently with 16 tracks of original poetry and songs. Awakenings also has sponsored dramatic readings of plays written by playwrights who have mental illnesses. As a playwright, I am personally grateful to Awakenings and its support of my theatrical dreams.
Awakenings is one of the great things to happen to me in my life. I've had the satisfaction of seeing artists and writers grow and develop. I've also grown myself and made many great friends who I'll have the remainder of my life, who are dear to me.
I have a mental illness myself, a type of schizophrenia called schizoaffective disorder. I get along pretty well these days, thanks to Awakenings.
I'll be out there raring to walk at the DuPage Human Race. This will be my first time and I can't wait. I'll be joined by other founders of The Awakenings Project, Irene O'Neill and Sandy Mazurek.
You can support Awakenings directly by sending tax-deductible donations to The Awakenings Project, P.O. Box 177, Wheaton, 60187. We're also online at AwakeningsProject.org.