Our History

Painted Brain was initially founded in 2005 by Dave Leon as a community-based art group at a mental health center in Los Angeles.

At the time, Painted Brain was not an organization and did not have an official name; it was just a community-based project.

The whole project started as a simple solution to a complex problem:

Illustration of the Community Center with the text This is Now on the top

How do you build a community around a challenge like mental illness?


Dave’s answer was to use art to spark socialization and friendships between individuals with mental health challenges.

A crowded community center back room art group space 3

The group produced poetry, cartoons, paintings, and drawings, all of which created a tight-knit community and reduced the stigma around their lived experiences. 

About a year later, in 2006, the group members decided to compile their art into a magazine, and they went on to publish multiple issues. The magazine name? The Painted Brain

The Community Center Opens!

community center view from the entrance

In 2016, the Co-Founders incorporated Painted Brain as 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

In 2017, Painted Brain opened its first drop-in Community Center in Mid City, Los Angeles.

The Center provides community members with a safe, judgment-free space off the street, and brings in actors, artists, writers, yoga instructors, mental health advocates, and more, to lead activities and classes on the arts, life-skills, and professional revision. In 2024, the organization relocated the Center to 3350 W 1st in Westlake, Los Angeles.

New Location!!

In 2024, the organization relocated the Center to:

3350 W 1st in Westlake, Los Angeles.