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my lil brother was an amazing artist suffering from a mental illness before he tragically passed away…  but his spirit for art lives on in me… that’s why I’m especially interested in supporting the “open art studio” in uptown…  that engages in the making of art & music w/ those marginalized due to mental illness & poverty…  

Unfortunately, even though being utilized to full capacity, they are apparently struggling financially and are scheduled to close in July of 2009. Thankfully there are a handful of wonderful Chicagoans dedicated to saving it… a couple are jumping into a car hitting 13 city art events in 7 days raising money anyway they can kickin it off June 6th at the Flat Iron building in Wicker Park for “smartshow” from 5-8pm featuring over 100 artists exhibiting & selling their work….  To learn more visit and to donate direct visit

17 Responses

  1. Carlos E.

    Hello Billy
    After attending many of your venues. I never knew of your Brother. I am so sorry. These days, being out of work, my donations have too be very limited, mostly to my survival.

    I wish you well with all of your ventures. I walked by sunda and the underground today and wondered what would have happened if we had become ‘friends’ years ago when we 1st met?


  2. Carlos E.

    I will place the above on my linkedin, plaxo, myspace, spacebook, twitter, msn, and wherever else, will let me.

    I am Jarreauman on twitter


  3. Lisa

    I think it’s wonderful that there are people who are trying to keep Open Art Studio open. The mentally ill are unfortunately often abandoned and forgotten so to see this place being “fought for” is really touching. My heart breaks for you and your family; I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I too have a brother who is mentally ill and the habitual feelings of guilt and helplessness are hard to let-go but it’s programs like this that can give us all a sense of hope and support. Thanks again for the update.

    with style,


  4. Justin West

    Wow!! Running on HeART, .. what a great idea!!! .. I also had a sibling with a mental illness. Schizophrenia actually. One day he was a normal teenager and then BOOM. When the hallucinations started his whole world turned upside down. Luckily he has friends and family to support him. I would imagine that some people aren’t so fortunate.

  5. Beth

    Billy, I’m sorry to hear about your loss.

    It’s great that people like you get involved with such organizations and causes. I hadn’t heard of Open Art Studio, but have worked with Special Music by Special People. This is another great musical organization that is dedicated to engaging and helping people with developmental disabilities. Bravo, keep up the good work! Chicago is proud to have a citizen like you!!!


  6. Angie

    Running on HeART seems like a great idea. It’s inspiring when people are passionate about something like an open art studio and helping others. I definitely want to support this cause. Thanks for the post!

  7. Valery

    Thanks so much for posting such a personal story in support of Open Art Studios. The relationships that have been built at our studio are deep and powerful. The respect for all of our community members as human beings, artists and contributing members of the community is heartening. I only wish that something like this could have been available to your brother in his time of need. If you have any of his artwork, it would be great if you could post it. People who have grappled with mental illness are some of the most interesting and wonderful people I’ve ever met, and I wouldn’t trade them for anyone “normal”.

  8. Allison Martin

    Wow! I had no idea that places like open art studios existed. I do not know much about art but I would like to. The open studios sound really amazing and I hope that people back them. It would be cool to have a huge one in the loop where not only chicagoans can get to know each other better, but we could even encourage tourists to go there to get to know us better and that would be unique to Chicago…maybe even have it done in time for the Olympics! I would totally go! Well, god bless the people involved in the trip, that is a LONG drive. Glad to see people are spreading the word about supporting mental illness and giving chicago more cool stuff through art studios.


  9. Jake Colton

    Sorry to hear about the loss of your brother Billy. Thanks for being a great example by promoting and contributing to the causes that matter to our Chicago communities. I believe in ART, I believe in the good of people, and I believe when you mix those two ingredients together, miracles happen.

    Jake Colton

  10. Tom

    This sounds like a great cause, Keep up the good work Running On HeART!! Its always great to see how much heart Chicago has!! We need to do all that we can do to support programs like this one. Good Luck!

  11. Tim B.

    Yes, people with mental illness are left with few options in this society. We outcast them and shove them into the corners of the world, e.g., places like Uptown. It’s definitely a tough road to lead if you have a debilitating mental illness given the constraints of our society. Their minds have tapped into something that diverges from the mainstream. But maybe that world is something we can learn from or tap into ourselves for some sort of, let’s say, art. I wouldn’t want to glamorize the pain that one suffers from something as serious as schizophrenia could be, but we’re all human and deserve the chance to reach our full potential. What a greater way to make sense of the mind, if the mind is confused, then through the medium of art. And especially, if we talk about “reality checking” with people with mental illness, shared art spaces can serve to be a non-isolative space where people can create and share, and I think above all, not feel so alone.

  12. Blemdeexy

    Hi, Congratulations to the site owner for this marvelous work you’ve done. It has lots of useful and interesting data.

  13. Charles Hunt

    Wow Billy!
    I knew you were into restaurants, nightclubs and working with celebs. and stuff…but I had no idea that you helped support this kind of stuff too, I like you that much more now and have total respect for that. That is awesome and I am glad to see that in the midst of all of your work stuff that you are giving of your time in that way. I think that everyone should have access to an open studio that they are talking about…. I myself have a mental illness and I know that if I had a place to go when I felt REALLY low and be with others and just get it all out through art that it would help me out alot. I am for sure going to go to this studio and let others know about it too. it is nice to think that there is a place that I can go and feel like I am welcomed and supported.

    Keep up the good work Billy,

  14. Wendy Andrews

    Hi Billy,
    I think that there are many people who would like to support mental illness through art/music but they do not know how. This whole open studio notion is really refreshing and could entirely revitalize how the world views and supports mental illness. I would love to get involved and I hope this group of people have more to come when they get back.


  15. michael

    so many suffer silently from mental illness. and all have a creative spirit within with the capacity to heal. we are fortunate for places like open art studios and people like these to help ensure their survival.

  16. Mikey Nguyen

    Billy – it’s tough when you have loss like that. It’s great that you are supporting Running on HeART because every person counts and can help get the word out. This group of Chicagoans taking this trek across the county to spread the word are indeed good people and I think have already impacted the art community. Take care!

    Mikey Winn

  17. phil heuz, melbourne, australia

    Hi, great to hear of the Open Art Studio!

    My name is Phil Heuzenroeder from Melbourne, Australia. I am a community artist working with people who experience mental illness. I lead the Bipolar Bears rock band ( and run the Music Network for mental health (

    I am coming to the USA from 3-20 Sept as part of a gospel music tour (I also direct a 100 voice community gospel choir). I will be in Chicago from 9-13 September this year. While I am there I’m keen to meet with mental health arts programs such as yourselves.

    I’d love to hear from you.

    Phil Heuzenroeder


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