This profile was prepared when Lisa Brown was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Working at the intersection of arts and mental health, Lisa is sparking a society-wide discourse to challenge the stereotypes surrounding mental illness. Lisa breaks down barriers for those who suffer from severe mental illness and addiction, enabling their personal and professional growth. Unlike other mental health focused organizations that use art as a means of therapeutic treatment, Lisa is building the professional skills of individuals living with severe mental illness in multiple artistic disciplines. In addition, Lisa is creating a Canadian society that is more educated and empathetic towards severe mental health issues. By this, she is facilitating the entry and re-entry of individuals with mental illness into society through income generation and increased employment opportunities.Opening doors for people living with mental illness to engage in creative activities, Lisa focuses on the exchange of ideas between artist and observer. This enables shared collective experiences through performances and works of art while establishing respect and value between artist and observer. Lisa is also contributing to the skill development and self-worth of individuals living with mental illness and addiction while inviting the general public to re-examine and discard negative stereotypes they may hold. Lisa targets multiple sectors and audiences in order to foster the professional growth and sector recognition of Workman Arts members. Crucial to driving a paradigm shift in mindsets surrounding mental illness is her insistence that Workman Arts members are recognized as professional artists first, educators of the public, second and individuals living with –rather than suffering from- mental health illness, last. Lisa is redefining the role of all persons with mental illness in every artistic, educational and entertainment medium. This interaction between artist and audience at performances and art exhibitions increases the artists’ sense of ability and economic potential while eroding the stigma of mental illness and prioritizing the value inherent in all individuals. Lisa’s work has been instrumental in changing the way in which Canadian society engages with mental illness and its treatment. Lisa is now establishing her work and theory of change on an international scale, bringing together strategic stakeholders wanting to adopt and replicate models of her programming. She is also establishing Workman Arts as a much needed, international hub of best practices for working in the area of arts and mental health.