Creativity & Mental Illness

Dec 27, 2016

By Community Support Services

The connection between mental illness and creativity goes back to ancient times with frequent references to individuals  as “madmen” or “geniuses.” Diagnoses such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia were common among artists and writers.  Numerous studies and writings have outlined the links throughout time.

The genesis of these artists began to emerge in the 1920’s with the publication of two pioneering studies on art made by asylum inmates, conducted by European psychiatrists in search of universal truths about human creativity. Dr. Hans Prinzhorn published, “Artistry of the Mentally Ill” in 1922 which compiled thousands of works from institutions. Artworks by untrained artists who often lived with a mental illness were brought to light with the coining of the term art brut (Raw Art) in 1947. The term was coined by a French artist Jean DuBuffet, and was later referred to as “Outsider Art” by Roger Cardinal in his book distinguishing eccentric artists.

In 1995, a museum devoted to exhibiting Outsider Art was established in Baltimore, MD. The American Visionary Museum ( holds a permanent collection of nearly 4,000 pieces. The museum’s founder was inspired by the works of psychiatric patients through a program at a local hospital, later developing the idea for a museum. She was impressed with the imagination of the patients and wanted the patients' strengths to be accentuated instead of the symptoms of their illnesses.


The late Alfred McMoore, an Akron artist and client of Community Support Services was an influential Outsider Artist.  A well-known and respected individual in the community, he inspired many with his eccentric, artistic talent, including the Black Keys band name. Battling schizophrenia most of his life, he was a prolific and eclectic artist whose work is on display in a gallery in New York City as well as a museum in France.

There are a myriad of reasons people are drawn to Outsider Art, including McMoore’s.  The work captures an authenticity; a taste of a truth that permeates to the core. A look into the imaginary, the primitive, and the lonely: a pure expression that comes from a perspective that is fibrous and rich. A statement that is bound to stop one in their tracks. To take a second look. And ponder the depth of meaning behind the captivating creation.

We invite you to witness the artwork of talented CSS clients at this year’s Art of Recovery celebration at Greystone Hall on the evening of Thursday, March 9.  For more information, please visit