Art Awakenings: Saving Lives with Art

By Kamilla Graham

Phoenix’s First Friday Art Walk is among the largest in the nation, with artists traveling across the state to showcase their work. Along Roosevelt Row in Downtown Phoenix, you can find a delightful collection of galleries displaying local artistic talent. Among these is Warehouse 1005, one of the several statewide galleries for PSA Art Awakenings, a program that “promotes empowerment and recovery through the power of creative expression with children and adults who are affected by serious mental health, general mental health and substance use challenges.” According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, one in five Americans lives with mental illness.

PSA Art Awakenings was founded in 2000 by CEO Sara Marriott. When asked why she founded the program, she said, “I love art history. I love the master artists and know that many had suffered from behavioral health issues. When the idea came up about helping people improve their mental illness by creating art and selling art, it seemed like a good idea. And it caught on.”

PSA is now a nationally recognized program that offers psycho-social rehabilitation and art therapy programs for more than 2,500 adults and children throughout Arizona. Studios are located all over the state, including in Downtown and Northwest Phoenix, Casa Grande, Tempe, Tucson, Parker, Bisbee, Douglas, Kingman and Yuma. The studios provide a safe and supportive environment for adults and children to explore artistic expression. Furthermore, it creates a community where artists learn respect for themselves and others, personal accountability, and pride in their accomplishments.

Staffed with expressive art therapists, artistic behavioral health specialists, behavioral health paraprofessionals, and support staff including peer artists, PSA Art Awakenings is far from the typical clinical mental health treatment. The studio and workspaces are inviting; the artists display work, selling it to the general public. They have the freedom to express themselves through many mediums: ceramic, textile, mosaic, paint, sculpture, jewelry, written and even music. They work with master artists and therapists, learning new techniques and exploring their artistic abilities. Warehouse 1005 also works within the general community with exhibits such as the upcoming “Black and Gray” scheduled for September, which is suicide prevention month.

The mural outside of the Downtown Phoenix gallery boldly states, “Art Saves Lives.” Creating a place for those who live with mental illness to find their voice and become empowered could save many lives indeed. PSA Art Awakenings is always looking for material donations such as canvases, brushes, paint and other materials. If you’d like to support their program and the artists, please drop in at one of their many studios throughout the Valley, or visit www.artawakenings.com to learn more.


Learn more about Art Awakenings at artawakenings.org. For more information about the PSA Behavioral Health Agency, visit azpsa.org.

Kamilla Graham is an Arizona native and avid NPR listener who enjoys rediscovering the world with her kids and husband.

Find more arts and entertainment articles at greenlivingaz.com/artsentertainment.

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