Awakenings Project

Rating: 4.9 stars   41 reviews


P.O. Box 177 Wheaton IL 60187 USA


The group's mission is to assist persons with mental health issues in developing their craft and finding an outlet for their creative abilities through art in all forms. The Awakenings Project also works in another direction: to seek to raise public acceptance and awareness of the creative talents of people living with psychiatric disorders who work in the fields of fine art, music, literature and drama. As writers and artists in recovery, for over a decade, we at Awakenings have basked in this activity, and feel sure the public will continue to better surmise the creative capacity and endowment of persons living with mental health issues. The Awakenings Project has succeeded. Awakenings has been a grass-roots initiative. It shows that mental health consumers can become producers of extraordinary art exhibits, can publish an internationally acclaimed literary arts journal, can support music and theatrical events. Our work has not gone unnoticed. In 2006 we were winners of the "Outstanding Contribution to Recovery by a Non-Profit Organization" award by the Irwin Foundation at Celebration Recovery.


We've been in existence since 1996, but only became a 501(c)3 in January 2004. All of us live with some diagnosis of a mental illness and we love to create art. We've produced literary arts journals for over 10 years, produced many, many gallery shows, where we have musicians at our opening receptions, we do art fairs, fundraisers, etc., etc.

Target demographics:

people who like to create art, whether visual, music, literary or drama, who also live with some form of mental illness.

Direct beneficiaries per year:

Our studio serves approximately 35 - 50 artists per year, and we print work from approximately 35 authors in our literary journal annually.

Geographic areas served:

Chicago, Chicagoland, DuPage County, Kane County, Cook County, Will County, and sometimes all of Illinois


art groups, classes, exhibits, producing The Awakenings Review, poetry readings/slams, music and dramatic productions.

2011 Top-Rated Nonprofit
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Reviews for Awakenings Project

Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I may seem biased, as President of the Board of Awakenings, and a member since the get-go, but it's not like I came up with the idea for this project. The credit for that rightly goes to our founder, Robert Lundin. He had the vision for an art show, and it was originally supposed to be just a one-weekend show at a NAMI-IL conference. But I'd like to take some credit for helping to get it off the ground, and for keeping it going for what is now approximately 18 years. There are several other members who have been with us since the beginning also, such as Ben Beyerlein, Anton Witek, Sandy Mazurek, and three other co-founders who have since passed away, Kurt Taecker, Trish Evers, and William Alexander. It's that kind of loyalty that tells me we must be doing something right. With the advent of the internet, we developed our website, and the second version, 2.0, of our website was designed by Wendy Liles, a former board member, who donated her time to do that for us. When facebook was spreading like wildfire, we started The Awakenings Project Group, and later Awakenings Project Page, which have helped us expand far beyond the borders of Illinois, to find like-minded artists from all across the country and even around the world. Robert Lundin also had the vision to see us expanding into the Literary Arts, Music, and Drama. This has been an empowering experience for all of us, in every capacity, a learning, loving, and powerful feeling of belonging and significance. I want to thank everyone who has reviewed us and everyone who has participated in any way. I hope we can keep it going together, with all your help. Thank you.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

When I 1st joined FB, I was looking for groups that met certain requirements. I wanted to be w/ like minded people who are achieving their goals in a trusting comfortable atmosphere. I stumbled upon "The Awakenings Project" w/Irene & Co. And let me tell you they are so much more than that...making music CD's & selling them, going to various art shows...selling paintings, poetry workshops & name it & they are there. What an inspiration The Awakenings Project has been for me. Although I live a few states away, it feels like I am right at home w/my friends from Awakenings. Bravo to the group for all you do.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Donate money/more fundraising.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I began with Awakenings in 2004. Initially I was heavily involved and did many of the shows and helped with set-up and spent a lot of time at the studio. I would say that the Awakenings Project helped me through some pretty dark periods in my life. Over the years I became less involved in the shows and set-up and became a board member-- fast forwarding to now where i am a advisory board member due to my rather busy life. I have witnessed the transformation one can experience by being a part of Awakenings Project as i know that others have as well. Next May i will be finishing up my masters in Social Work and hope to have more time to be involved with Awakenings Project-- as i know that they continue to reach out and touch many others.

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Rating: 5 stars  

Awakenings is an artists collaborative whose members happen to also be recovering, or in recovery, from mental illnesses. Awakenings has touched the lives of many people and facilitated joyful creativity for persons in hospitals, mental health centers, nursing homes, and the community. They offer a Drop-In Art Studio in Elgin every Saturday from 11 am -1:00 pm with free art materials, laid-back companionship, acceptance, and friendly encouragement to join in and play!
Volunteers conduct art classes and 'happenings' everywhere they can - nursing homes, national and local Recovery Conferences in Chicago, Elgin, Lisle and beyond; host art exhibits showcasing their members’ work at art galleries, public libraries, colleges and universities, stage poetry readings, and publish a fine bi-annual literary journal, The Awakenings Review, with writings from consumer-survivors and family members. Awakenings awards scholarships to deserving artists to recognize their talent and help bankroll their art supplies or studies.
This organization runs on pure love. The founding members take phone calls from all over the country and are always open to including new people who happen to hear of Awakenings, at times even picking them up and bringing them into their homes for a meeting and a meal! Or dropping by the home of a supporter in another state as they drive through on their family vacation!
Awakenings has survived and thrived for over a decade now - how many consumer-run organizations getting by on a shoestring can claim such longevity?
I support Awakenings because of its work celebrates the gifts and strengths of persons with mental illnesses, educates the public, fights stereotypes and stigma, sets the spirit free, and is a remarkable band of brothers and sisters. Come join us!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I've personally seen many people become empowered and energized by the opportunity to create art in whatever way they wish, in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. People grow in their artistic abilities and expand their horizons as a result of associating with this band of artists and free spirits. People begin to flourish, not merely 'recover.'

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I wish there were more helping hands to share the work. More people with cars, time, and energy to help out at events. Awakenings needs lots of new members to keep growing. More media exposure would help! Awakenings is a powerful recovery tool that more mental health agencies should know about and make use of to jump-start their members recovery and creative self-expression. Needs persons with grant-writing abilities to give some time and expertise to help Awakenings grow.

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Rating: 5 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

This art project has been my lifeblood for the past 13 years. I helped founder Robert Lundin get it off the ground in 1996. It was supposed to be a one-weekend long art show, and thanks to the energies of the member artists, it has extended its run by going on 14 years. The empowerment felt by artists and people doing the administration, all of whom are directly impacted by mental illnesses, is unbelievable. We've had so much press coverage, interest by the general public in the positive contributions by artists with mental illnesses and videos made about our work it's been a great learning experience and the camaraderie in the relationships that have been formed is very deep. We are like a family.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the reception by the public to learning about the talents of these great artists who live with mental illnesses, and the growth of the project from the visual arts to the literary arts, the musical arts, and even some of the dramatic arts.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

find a way to get a professional grant writer on board to help the organization get more funding, because it richly deserves it.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the support I've received from all the many members over the years, especially those who have stuck with it for all these years.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

incredibly helpful, hard-working, compassionate, empathic and caring.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

spread the Awakenings Project model of grass roots, self-help artists with mental illnesses doing unbelievably fabulous things all around the world.

Ways to make it better...

I'm sorry, but I can't really think it could be any better than it has been.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

finding funding to be able to continue the great things the organization is doing, and to be able to expand them. Also, to be able to reach out to more artists with mental illnesses and continue to spread the word.

One thing I'd also say is that...

This project is much deserving of further recognition.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


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