The artists of Awakenings Art Studio, tucked away on an upper floor of a quaint Glen Ellyn building, must find a new home.
They have used their studio for eight years and with the move coming, they plan to sell many items to raise funds to keep their larger goal alive. A sale is planned for the artwork, art supplies and equipment from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 7 at 413 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn.
The Awakenings Project began as a way for artists with mental illness to express themselves through their works. Now, with the looming relocation, the artists are hoping to find a new space by July 1 because the building owners have other plans for their space.
"We've been worrying about this," said Irene O'Neill, now president of the organization and one of the original artists who recalls when the Awakenings Project was no more than just a great idea, tailored to channel the brilliance and creativity of those with mental illness.
The artists hope funds raised from the sale will enable them to afford another space in the area. They realize that is a tall order. Although the current studio is small, it is spacious enough. There are tall ceilings and skylights allowing plenty of natural light, a necessity. And the rent has been affordable.
"All these years, Trish never had a lease," said O'Neill.
Trish Evers was a talented Glen Ellyn artist who made the studio possible 8 years ago. Evers' involvement with the Awakenings Project and ultimately donating her space was serendipitous.
In 1996 Glen Ellyn writer Robert Lundin was project director for the state convention for National Alliance on Mentally Illness, NAMI. Lundin was inspired by writer Kay Redfield Jamison's book, "Touched by Fire," which explored a link between manic depressive illness and creative artistic ability. He suggested hosting an art show. Lundin got the ball rolling and immediately met other artists with a common bond, one of whom was Trish Evers, who had her own art studio in town.
"I knew Trish Evers," Lundin said. "She and I lived in downtown Glen Ellyn. Without knowing about her background, I asked for her help."
Lundin, who has a type of schizophrenia, spoke openly about his mental illness. It was at that time that Evers confided to Lundin that she had bi-polar disorder.
In setting up for that first art show in 1997, Lundin formed a bond with Evers.
"We automatically became friends," he said. "She was right there helping."
As the project grew, they acquired a team of artists, all working together
"Trish was very involved. We valued her input and talents," added Lundin.
O'Neill said, "We thought it was going to be a one- weekend show."
Little did they know that the first art show would be one of many, and that the group would go on to become a recognized not-for-profit organization. What they also could not have known then was that Trish was sick.
"She knew she was dying," said O'Neill.
Trish Evers died of cancer June 7, 2000, and donated her space to the Awakenings Project.
"It was just something that Trish felt very strongly about," O'Neill said.
O'Neill believes the best way to honor Evers and her memory is to keep the Awakenings Project going, and in order to do that they are going to have to find an affordable space to continue to create, display and sell their art.
For artists like Ben Beyerlein of Glen Ellyn, creating at the studio has become an important ritual that defines who he is.
"It becomes something that I organize my day around," he said. "I feel like I get a complete sense of well-being when I am producing."
Items purchased at the moving sale will benefit the group. Donations also may be sent to the Awakenings Project, P.O. Box 177, Wheaton, IL 60187. For details or to donate on-line through Network for Good, visit www.theawakeningsproject.org.
If you go
What: Awakenings Project art sale
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 7
Where: 413 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn
Cost: Art prices range from $5 to more than $1,000
Call: (630) 606-8732