Winner award 2015

Janos Marton



October 10, 2015

Dr. Marton & Mary-Beth.jpg

On October 8th 2015, the Dr. Guislain Museum and Janssen Research & Development, LLC, announced that Janos Marton, director of The Living Museum in Queens, New York, has been named the 2015 winner of the Dr. Guislain "Breaking the Chains of Stigma" Award. The award honors Dr. Marton for his extraordinary efforts and distinctive ability to nurture creativity of individuals living with mental illness and for establishing a groundbreaking and flourishing artistic community within a mental health care setting. He will be recognized for his contributions tomorrow during a ceremony and concert in his honor at the Opera House Ghent, in Belgium.


Over the last 30 years, Dr. Marton has fostered an environment of artistic expression at The Living Museum located within the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. At The Living Museum, people with mental illness are encouraged to transform their experiences to artistic expression, a shift that can have profound implications for a patient's overall well-being. Driven by a desire to empower his patients, Dr. Marton is the curator of the largest collection of art by people living with a mental illness in the United States.

Through The Living Museum, Dr. Marton has positively impacted the lives of many patients, volunteers, students, artists and mental health professionals. To date, this concept of creating an artistic atmosphere for mental health patients has sparked similar creative centers regionally and globally, from Long Island to Switzerland to Holland.  

"If Dr. Janos Marton ran the world, there would be protected spaces everywhere for people with mental illness to create paintings and sculptures, drawings and lithographs, installations, murals and collages, poetry and novels, songs and symphonies.


“The actual art at the Living Museum is immaterial. It is a conceptual performance piece that takes place in the formless and fleeting sphere of trust in the patients, the prejudice of the spectators, and the actual experience of the artists in the space”

Janos marton


The abandoned buildings on the grounds of old state hospitals would be turned into sheltered workshops. Warehouses in urban centers, where the mentally ill pace the streets and scrounge meals from garbage cans, would become safe harbors, working studios filled with color and form. Delusion and hallucination, pain and sorrow, fear and manic exuberance would find their outlet in something quite simple, the creation of works of art." 

This is what Erica Goode of the New York Times wrote summarizing our ideas. Today, as we look back on 30 years of art produced in the space by artists of mental illness, we experience the same miracle. Many hundreds worked here during this period, accumulating one of the most surprising, enchanting and profound collection of art in the U.S. The Living Museum is located in Queens, New York, and is part of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center; a large state owned and operated mental health facility for people with severe disorders. The Museum serves as an asylum for its members, enabling them to transform their vulnerable identities from that of mental patient to that of artist."The miracle can't be perceived from the outside. It's only another huge building with barred windows and a closed door. But when the door is opened and you cross the threshold, the barrier is broken. For once you feel the physical, not the literary sensation of having gone through the looking glass Of stepping into another reality, another language of fluid structures."(Luisa Valenzuela in the Village Voice, 1986).

The Museum is conceived not as an art therapy project, not as recreation but as a space where art is created and presented to visitors, mental health practitioners, workers, fellow artists and through various public venues to the world at large. This is art with an implicit message: mental illness, as debilitating as it can be, is a unique source of creativity.  The same energy that fuels destructive and self-destructive tendencies, can be channeled and used to create great art. This is a message worth trumpeting into the wide world, since most people, neither in mental health nor in the arts, are fully aware of it. Significant art does not occur in the political or in the decorative domains, nor is it fueled by the desire to become famous, but rather it happens in the non-historical sphere reserved for the artists whose work touches us at a level rooted in the core of human existence. It seems to come from a deep place, untouched by conscious choice, but rather guided by a genuine need for expression.


“The fact that mental ill people can run a museum like The Living Museum is incredible. It seems a utopian idea, but it works.”


We have enough evidence of the last thirty years to argue that people with severe mental illness are often in a privileged state, best described  as "being in the flow". To be immersed in the process forces you to shut out the world around you, at the same time it enables one to enter a state where communication with external forces occur. It also makes the artist vulnerable and in need of protection. That's why art asylums, like the Living Museum, are necessary. 

Finally, quoting Carin Kuoni: "…the actual art at the Living Museum is immaterial. It is a conceptual performance piece that takes place in the formless and fleeting sphere of trust in the patients, the prejudice of the spectators, and the actual experience of the artists in the space." In addition, we argue with Joseph Beuys that the old concept of art based only on the picture or sculpture is somewhat worn out: In an age of declining values and growing material expectations, with science and technology and increasing specialization encroaching on every side, the crucial priority is to develop an anthropological concept of art, which would embrace all forms of human expression, especially in our case, that of healing.