‘Art for Art’s Sake’ raises funds to help nonprofit for the mentally disabled

Three student theater groups held their third annual benefit production Friday in support of The Awakenings Project, a non-profit that encourages those with mental disabilities to use art as therapy.

The registered student organizations — the New Revels Players, Penny Dreadful Players and The What You Will Shakespeare Company — joined with the non-profit to host “Art for Art’s Sake,” a benefit theater production held in the Gregory Hall auditorium.

The event drew more than 100 members of the University community and raised $700.

The theater groups collaborate on the fundraiser every year, but each year a different group handles the event planning. This year, the benefit was produced by the New Revels Players.

Members of all three groups wrote, directed and produced eight shows for the production with the exception of one play written by Robert Lundin, co-founder of The Awakenings Project. The group also decided to add a concert by the band Chief to the beginning of the show and moved the event to Gregory Hall from its former location at University Place Christian Church.

“We decided to change the venue because it’s a more central location, and it gives it more of a theater feel,” said John Pollard, president of New Revels Players and junior in LAS.

Charity events such as “Art for Art’s Sake” are typical of The Awakenings Project, an advocacy group that also seeks to give its artists a place to express themselves through its art studio in Elgin, Ill.

Irene O’Neill, co-director of The Awakenings Project, said the organization’s goals are based on the research of K.R. Jamison.

“Researcher K.R. Jamison did amazing work with manic-depressive illness and artistic talent,” O’Neill said. “She showed, without a doubt, that there’s a link between manic-depressive illness and creative genius.”

O’Neill said she didn’t accept herself after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder until she heard Lundin, who deals with schizoaffective disorder, speak several years ago.

One Awakenings artist, Mike Rudis, of Lemont, Ill., came to the event to see Lundin’s play and display some of his own art.

“I have wanted to come for the past three years, but I could only make it this year,” Rudis said. “I wanted to display my art, and I’ve never been here. I like theater and wanted to see the band play, too.”

Janelle can be reached at jnodea2@dailyillini.com.