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State of the Brain
Of all the transitions, iterations and varied manifestations of Painted Brain over the years (including, like Facebook, the dropping of the ‘the’), the current transformation is by far our most significant: we are becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit of our own. We are growing online and our social media following is nearing 50,000. Our involvement in local service sectors now includes the education, the mental health system, and the criminal justice system. We are also gearing up for the move to a physical space worthy of our growth and expanding relevance in the conversation about mental illness in our society. As the founding director of this project, I wanted to take this time to talk about where our program is and what opportunities we face.
First I want to offer some words about our physical space and our plans for community activities. In September of 2015, we moved into our current MacArthur Park office on a month-to-month lease with the understanding that the building we occupy would eventually be converted to apartments. After almost 2 years without any outward signs of development, this has come to pass and like every other business and company in the building, we were recently asked to vacate our office by July 1st, 2017. Like any crisis, this presents both a danger and an opportunity. The danger is in losing our momentum, as our community continues to grow and develop, but the opportunity is even greater. While in the transition, our team decided it would be best to hold off on renting a sub-optimal space out of rushed desperation. Instead, we are going rogue.
Our crack team of social arts experts is busily curating our most popular community center activities and placing them strategically around the city. Over the next several weeks, we will select and secure spaces for our community meeting, our coding workshop with CodiePie, our stellar poetry group led by Stewart Lupton, and our rockin’ Friday jam sessions. We are also taking our newest community development venture, the Guerilla Art Salon, and picking a raft of cool spots for this dynamic arts group to take on LA with a new public location every week. This also gives us the opportunity to really tighten up communication with our contributors, revamping our phone tree and email chains to assure that our contributors and artists know where we are and where we’re going.
We are gaining ground in revolutionizing the use of arts groups in mental health, housing, homelessness, and recovery; also building the argument for peer support and group-level intervention as vital components of mental health recovery. I was personally honored with an invitation to join an Advisory Committee for the psychiatry department of Cedars-Sinai, and just this week said Committee met at Painted Brain’s headquarters, while we still have it. Along with Sharon Dunas of NAMI and Jamie Kay from the Life Adjustment Team, we are strongly advocating for the inclusion of peer support and peer connections as Cedars-Sinai explores the expansion of mental health services.
In addition to our art group services, already integrated into the treatment on offer from a half-dozen local mental health agencies and psychiatric hospitals, we have made great strides this year in creating the Community Arts Intervention, an intensive series of music, writing, and arts activities that we use to engage the residents of housing facilities and other residential treatment centers. The goal is to improve communication, sense of shared purpose, and new coping and social skills development for the residents of these high-intensity atmospheres. We have been invited to submit proposals to two large bureaucracies in county social services to implement this innovative intervention. Also, with guidance from members of the Department of Public Health team, we developed a logic model and assessment strategy to prove the impact of the Community Arts Intervention as a ‘Community Defined Practice’.
Painted Brain continues to change the conversation by directly influencing leaders of the future through our many internship projects. For the coming academic year, we have accepted our first Occupational Therapy Resident, a full-time residency for the incredible Sharon Vincuilla, to build a Painted Brain OT practice as a vital component of her doctoral program and our services. In addition to OT and MSW interns, we are expanding our internship opportunities for the coming year to include students of Communications, Computer Science, Business, Cognitive Science, and Arts Management.
In partnership with CodiePie, a tech company started by our co-founder and chief technical officer Eli Israelian, we have been continuously running a coding workshop for the past year and we are developing new avenues for growth and employment by utilizing our exemplary social media team to do social media for individuals and local companies, a source of revenue and employment.
We are also soon diving back into the print media world with the coming publication of Painted Brain’s new literary arts magazine, a project created by team members Tristan Scremin and Jane Engelman, and with our first-ever coloring book. The coloring book will be an awesome opportunity to promote and disseminate the incredible work of our chief illustrator and founding member of Painted Brain, the esteemed Lawrence Rozner who also drew the original Painted Brain logo, the brain painting a canvas.
Finally, I want to celebrate our growing presence in the art world beyond our mental health bubble. Personally, I just had the privilege to lead a public dialogue about art and mental illness with a professor of law and Painted Brain board member Elyn Saks and accomplished glass artist Kazuki Takizawa at Craft in America*, a cutting-edge gallery in Los Angeles that is directly filling the false gulf between art and craft. In addition, Painted Brain was recently chosen as one of the YBCA 100 influencers for 2017, culminating in a meeting of the minds in San Francisco this October. We were included with such social justice warriors as Barry Jenkins, Jill Soloway, Jorge Ramos, and Trevor Noah. The path to influence is long and winding, but we keep coming around the bend bigger and better than ever.
If there was ever a time to support us, it is soon upon us. The biggest challenge facing a new nonprofit is, sadly, cash flow. We provide thousands of dollars of services every month, but while we are paid after we provide the service, we have to shoulder all the costs of operation before receiving the payment. That means not just paying our team to run the activities, but also paying for insurance, rent, supplies, administrative costs, and maybe even some money for your hard working founder/director, if there is any left over. Our ability to operate at full capacity will depend largely, and really for the first time, on our ability to fundraise. Stay tuned and start saving your change for us, we are gonna be asking and we’re gonna to change everything.
Sounds awfully exciting…so it’s time to get on the train of transformation cuz the train is leavin the station for the mountain high and promised land….to the highest and beyond….shalom and a smile your way
I’m thinking of a warehouse space with lots and lots of exposed red brick (Brooklyn, HELLO?), big enough to hold a de-commissioned aircraft carrier where we can have a permanent art gallery, a stage/performance space, a workshop complete with acetylene torches and Naomi in a welder’s mask with molten sparks flying everywhere, several rooms for the creation of art/sculpture, a small kitchen and dining area (complete with some credible coffee) and, of course, a large community of like-minded individuals utilizing the space twenty-three-and-a-half hours a day (ya gotta sleep sometime, right?).