Although the non-profit association PsycArt was founded only recently (July 2013), the PsycArt project celebrated its fifteenth birthday in 2013. Initially, this project, set up by the pharmaceutical company Lundbeck s.a. (specialists in psychiatry and neurology), consisted of organising exhibitions aimed at a specialist public: health care professionals working in mental health institutions.
Since 1998, the three main action areas of the project have been as follows: organising exhibitions/sales of ‘outsider’ works of art; logistical and financial support for workshop initiatives in psychiatric and neurological care facilities; and the establishment of a permanent collection to be lent to organisations working in the mental health field.
Over a period of 15 years, PsycArt has set up over 40 workshops, exhibited over 400 artists and has sold more than 2000 works. All of the money raised from sales (over 300,000 EUR since the launch of the project) has been returned to the participating institutions.
Apart from financial support, the objective of PsycArt is to remove the stigma from the artists it supports. This is done firstly by encouraging and promoting all creative works produced by artists affected by a neurological or psychiatric condition, and by permitting these artists to be owners and actors in their own project (since each artist is involved in the project since its conception); and secondly by improving the way society sees these people by means of artistic expression.
The success and reputation of PsycArt has grown steadily over the years, now extending well beyond the medical environment. In particular the project has on several occasions won Prométhéa’s Caïus awards, which it won twice in 1999 and 2012, and for which it received a special mention in 2003. It is thanks to this desire for openness as regards the general public and different cultural scenes, with the intention of providing outsider artists with the opportunity to become known in “insider” areas as well, always seeking to eliminate that stigma, that PsycArt decided to set itself up as a non-profit association. So far, PsycArt is one of the few NPAs in charge of a national/international-level socio-cultural project, focusing its work on the three Belgian regions and the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg.
In addition to the chairman, who comes from Lundbeck, the NPA has six directors: creative therapists working in the psychiatric environment, the workshop coordinator, the contemporary art gallery director, etc. The fact that the association was opened up to a network of professionals was of crucial importance for ensuring that the activities undertaken by PsycArt would become known to the general public and cultural scenes. Boasting an extensive network of contacts from most Belgian psychiatric institutions, PsycArt is also set up as a short-term operation, with the aim of constituting a network of professionals from across Belgium and the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. This network will facilitate more widespread initiatives, as well as the supporting of many regional initiatives. Having been in existence for just six months, the NPA PsycArt already has 40 full members.