The History of Awakenings

How It Began

The Awakenings Project began as the “Awakenings Art Show” in 1996. Co-founder Robert Lundin contacted his friends and colleagues who had mental illnesses, to see if they were interested in organizing an art exhibit, and possibly becoming advocates with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

He funded the first art show and produced it with lots of help from friends and colleagues Ben Beyerlein, Anton Witek, William Alexander, Irene O’Neill and the late Trish Evers. Upon realizing what a huge undertaking this would be, he asked Irene O’Neill, who co-owns an art gallery, to be his Co-Director. NAMI-IL provided some display space at their annual conference at the Lisle-Naperville Hilton.

The 1997 Awakenings Art Show was such a success that for the next several years we organized exhibits at the NAMI-IL conferences in Springfield, Lisle and Lincolnshire, IL. Moreover, the members of the Awakenings Art Show were invited to exhibit at galleries and other venues, and the DuPage-based organization grew and called itself “the Awakenings Project.”

In The News
Individual Awakenings artists and the Awakenings Project have received extensive coverage in such local newspapers as The Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Glen Ellyn News, Oak Leaves and the Wednesday Journal (both in Oak Park), The Naperville/Lisle Sun, and the Aurora Beacon. In January 1999, we were featured throughout Chicagoland on the Channel 5 (WMAQ) Network News program “HealthWatch.” In September 2000, the debut of The Awakenings Review was covered by Liberty Star Press, which owns 75 regional newspapers. In Spring 2004, the Awakenings Project was prominently featured on the cover and pages 10-13 of Reintegration Today Magazine.

We are also proud to have been featured in the August 25, 1999 issue of JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association).

Dreams of a Studio Space
In 1999, having a studio/gallery space was a distant dream. But it was a dream nonetheless. Helped by initial grants received from the DuPage Community Foundation for 1999-2001, and through the generosity of artist Trish Evers, we have opened a “Working Studio” in Glen Ellyn, and the dream is now a reality. We were fortunate again in 2006/2007 to receive another grant from the DuPage Community Foundation. This grant will be used to help with studio rent and for art supplies to lead art projects at Wheaton Care Center.

The studio is currently serving artists with mental illnesses as both a studio and a gallery. It is used for writing groups devoted to the literary arts, and rehearsing plays. The space is available for classes, supplies, and workshops for both writing and visual art, interaction and camaraderie. There has been and will be exposure and therefore interaction with and education of the public, and sales. There have been poetry therapy workshops, classes, and in-service trainings for artists.

We have great hopes, dreams, plans and opportunities for Awakenings, and we will pursue them, with help and support from donations, gifts, fundraising and grants. We have received support from several pharmaceutical corporations and Lucent Technologies. More recently, we have received extremely generous gifts in memory of Robert Beyerlein. We hope to continue to develop our project, and become fully self-supporting. That should be possible now that we are finally our own independent 501(c) 3 not-for-profit corporation.

The Future
The Awakenings Project is developing many future plans and strategies. Trish Evers contributed the many supplies in the studio. We would like to further develop sales opportunities for our artists, and form a permanent collection of Awakenings artwork, thereby eliminating the need to contact individual artists and arrange for collection and transportation of artwork, even for small showings. Therefore, having a permanent collection, with a permanent location to display it, would be very advantageous.