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Painted Brain | Community Center
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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Community Center


From the pitch deck: the community center

Where Is Painted Brain Located?


5980 W Pico Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90035

What is the Painted Brain community?

Painted Brain’s community is made up of those who consider themselves to be a part of the community. We share some values regarding the worth of human experience and the meaning of dignity, and we generally have experiences that require us to think more intentionally about our mental health. Our community center provides a space for this community to meet. It is a space where we encourage leadership and creativity.

How many people are involved in Painted Brain?

Painted Brain’s day-to-day operations center, our headquarters, opened in our current location in September 2015. It is in fact, the first office that is wholly ours. We are open three days per week and have between 60 and 90 individual people come through our doors each month. Our community meeting is our largest weekly activity and typically hosts 20-30 people. Most of our groups operate with 3 to 5 members and all can expand to meet the in-the-moment demand.

Who runs Painted Brain’s community?

Under the guidance of the founding director, social worker Dave Leon, Painted Brain employs a team of peer leaders, mental health survivors who run our community center, our social media, and web development, and our public outreach. The community center employs two Member Service Coordinators, James, and Jesus, who make sure people feel welcome and find something to do. The community center also has the support and presence of social work interns and occupational therapy students running some activities and providing individualized support to motivated artists with specific professional goals.

How do I become a part of Painted Brain community?

Painted Brain’s community meeting (currently 2 pm Mondays at our headquarters) has been running continuously, weekly, for most of the ten-year history of Painted Brain, across many venues and with many hundreds of participants. The meeting is a chance to talk about the community, provide updates on activities, and discuss challenges and opportunities facing people in the community. This is a great first place to start.

However, we run an open community and invite interested parties to literally just show up and get involved. See our calendar here for our current hours and opportunities.

Why do we need the Painted Brain community?

Painted Brain started in response to a specific problem with the mental health system, the emphasis on individualized treatment. Mental illness impacts social communication, possibly the most significant impact because we are social creatures. Our ability to get our needs met depends largely on our social skills. Art and art activities promote interaction and allow for a sense of safety. Painted Brain is a collection of such activities, along with a team to help run, promote and develop it. All of this is in the service of building communities of artists. Ultimately we see art and group activities becoming a focus of mental health policy and service provision.

We need a place where people with extreme emotions and intense, non-typical mental experiences can come together and make something happen. We hope that Painted Brain is that place. Our potential is limitless.

How do we know Painted Brain community has an impact?

The simple answer is, we don’t. Our community elected many years ago that, as a community, we do not want to subject our members to assessments. Painted Brain does assess certain activities, such as our Art Group Services and our Speakers Bureau because this provides useful information for the sale and promotion of those services.

But our community itself is different. Our community spoke, and it does not want to be assessed.

The real answer is that we know it works because it does, we prove it every day we operate. People keep showing up. Our community keeps growing. People enjoy their time at Painted Brain, and stay involved, often for years. We have artists who have been a part of the community since the very beginning. Our intention has always been to provide a long-term connection and sense of purpose to anyone who wanted to be involved and stay involved.

History of Painted Brain Spaces

When our director, Dave Leon, left the community center where Painted Brain began, the Painted Brain became essentially homeless. We met in coffee shops and mental health agencies, and still managed to print a magazine and host a big public show to celebrate it every year.

In the academic year 2009-2010, Painted Brain sublet the corner of a warehouse space in the arts district of downtown LA. This was a raucous space where artists could literally spray paint the inner walls and we could play loud live music at any time of day. The warehouse also housed a fashion studio, site of our Issue Six fashion shoot. We had to move out suddenly when the person from whom we were subleasing lost her master lease.

We were again homeless from summer of 2010 to January of 2012 when we moved into an unused office space belonging to our new fiscal sponsor, SSG. Appropriately, this building in downtown also housed FIDM.

In 2013, we joined forces with another SSG community development team, BACUP, and joined them in a move to a sizable office on Olympic Blvd, conveniently located across the street from a Rodeo Mexican Restaurant and a 7-11. This space worked out great until our current circumstances.