Painted Brain partners with Alcott Center to display art made by patients with mental illness

In Art, Lifestyle, Top Stories
Mental Illness patient's artwork is displayed on the walls of the Alcott Center Mental Health Services Studio Gallery

Los Angeles organizations Painted Brain and the Alcott Center for Mental Health Services joined forces Thursday evening to showcase artwork of clients who struggle with mental illness.

The art exhibit was a celebration of creativity and personal growth for artists, some who have dealt with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

Over a dozen artists showcased their work, displaying several mediums of art rendering in acrylic paint, watercolors, wooden sculptures and photography.

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The Alcott Center found that artistry and creativity have proven to benefit their clients as they navigate through their lives. Through art shows, these organizations plan to open the dialogue about mental illness and combat connotations that the community may have about mental health, according to Painted Brain’s press release.

The event was an opportunity for their clients to showcase and sell their own artwork. Eighty percent of the artists’ profits go directly to themselves, and the rest are contributed to the Alcott Center, said Nick Maiorino, executive director of the Alcott Center.

Maiorino said the center advocates for collaborations with the Painted Brain, and that the events help to enrich their clients by building a foundation of a community.

Painted Brain is a nonprofit organization that focuses on encouraging artistic expression of mental health patients who seek mental health assistance.

The two organizations specialize in different methods of treatment in regards to mental illnesses. The Alcott Center provides outpatient mental health care services such as therapy, case management and psychiatry for clients who lack medical benefits or are on Medi-Cal.

This is the first time the Alcott Center and Painted Brain hosted an event for their clients’ work in a space as large as previous events open to the public. The organizations aim to hold events together two to three times a year.

“We believe that art really helps with their mental health, and provides them with socialization. It can really boost their self-esteem,” Maiorino said.

Leslie Moreno was among the artists who displayed her work at the exhibit. She joined Painted Brain in 2009 to help treat her personal struggles with bipolar disorder and severe depression. Her artwork was a cacophony of colors juxtaposed on canvas to create a mosaic effect that allowed the viewer to interpret the undefined shapes as images in their own mind.

Abstract paintings hang in a gallery wall by Leslie Moreno.
(Brandon Killman / Daily Titan)

Moreno said one particular painting drew significant emotion as she recalled her mental state at the time she was producing the piece. She looked at the painting and remembered getting out of a mental hospital, describing it as one of the worst moments in her life.

“(Painted Brain) helped me tremendously throughout my struggle,” Moreno said. “It’s a place I can call home, and it’s family.”  

Moreno said she wanted an outside support system to sort out and navigate through her struggles. Painted Brain was the escape that allowed Moreno’s self-esteem to soar, while making lasting connections with other clients that work with the organization.

“We also get deep into conversation about each other and our lives,” Moreno said.

Over the course of 10 years working on and off with the Painted Brain, Moreno said that she has found that art serves as an escape from the outside world.

Searching for freedom was a common thread shared amongst artists at the exhibit. Tristan Scremin, the community liaison for Painted Brain, also showcased art at the exhibit.

Scremin’s piece was an interactive community experience in itself. It was a large piece of paper stretched across a wall with outlined etchings of hand-drawn geometric shapes filling each corner of the paper. Next to the large illustration was a table kit with coloring tools that allowed gallery patrons to contribute to Scremin’s art piece.  

Scremin deals with paranoid schizophrenia, and through art he has found a center that grounds his mental state.

“I don’t think about anything when I’m drawing. I have zero thoughts, so it’s very peaceful,” Scremin said.

Scott Dickinson, an artist whose Jackson Pollock-esque works hang in the gallery, said that creativity is the ultimate form of release.

“It’s therapy, it’s straight therapy; art helps you focus,” Dickinson said. “It really gets you out of your head, and gives you something to concentrate on other than life. It’s the best therapy and medication in the world.”

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