North Central College presents The Awakenings Project

Mar 27, 2014

North Central College will showcase works by members of The Awakenings Project April 25-June 22.

Begun in 1997, The Awakenings Project is a group of talented artists in DuPage County and surrounding areas, all of whom have a psychiatric illness. Shown art represents the broad range of work these artists create, from casual paintings, sculptures and photographs by amateurs to seasoned works by professional artists.

The exhibit, presented by the Arient Family, is free and open to the public in North Central College’s Schoenherr Gallery at the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave. An artist reception will be held from 6-8 p.m. Friday, May 2. In addition to complimentary refreshments, visitors will enjoy live music by one of the artists and a panel discussion about self-taught art and the interconnectedness of art and mental health.

The Awakenings Project underscores the ability of artists to communicate the essence of mental illness—its experience, its pain and its reality—or in the case of some, its detachment from reality. The exhibit communicates the remarkable talent people with mental illness possess and their ability to create stunning exhibits and sell their artwork.

Irene O’Neill, president and cofounder of The Awakenings Project, is a 1986 graduate of North Central College and exhibiting artist in the show. O’Neill and the College partnered to showcase this exhibit during May, Mental Health Awareness Month, as a way to “educate others about the positive aspects of what people with mental illnesses are capable of,” says O’Neill. “We’re trying to eradicate the stigma of living with mental illnesses by being open about our disabilities and sharing our abilities. We hope viewers will see lots of amazing artwork and ask questions of the artists.”

The Awakenings Project is presented by the Arient Family. Naperville residents Jim and Beth and their son Matthew are collectors of self-taught art, lecturers, writers, photographers, archivists and lenders to museum shows around the country and in Europe.  

Much of the artwork will be available for purchase. For more information about The Awakenings Project visit

For gallery hours or to learn more about the exhibit, contact Nickole C. Lanham, North Central’s gallery director, at 630-637-5375 or

North Central College’s 2013-2014 Fine and Performing Arts Season is partially sponsored by USG Corporation and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Season supporters include BMO Harris, Bulley & Andrews, Casa by Charleston, Grant Thornton, J.P. Morgan, Main Street Promenade, Marquette Properties, Nicor Gas, Ryan Hill Realty, Turner Construction Company, U.S. Bank Private Client Reserve and Water Street Development.