Workman Arts is an arts and mental health organization known internationally for its artistic collaborations, presentations, knowledge exchange, best practices and research on the impact of the arts on the quality of life of people living with mental illness and addiction.


Empowering artists with lived experience while challenging and advancing perspectives on mental health

Our Approach

Click To View Our Approach

Workman Arts supports the creative goals of emerging and established artists with mental health and addiction issues by providing a safe, nurturing environment where artistic projects, professional opportunities and personal and professional networks are developed and fostered. Through participation in creative and collaborative projects that encourage the exchange of ideas between artist and observer, and the shared collective experience of audiences engaging in performances or presentation of works of art, connections are made between Workman Arts artists and the public at large and the discrimination and prejudice associated with mental illness and addiction is eroded. The key elements of our programming are:

  • A personalized orientation program, individualized development plans and ongoing support;
  • Celebrating and focusing on the capabilities of each member artist;
  • Providing training in all five arts areas, from novice to advanced;
  • Utilization of member artists for training and mentoring;
  • Ensuring that the artistic works are professionally marketed and displayed, and that artists are paid competitive rates for their work (eg CARFAC, Actor’s Equity);
  • Developing a network of people and organizations that will bring opportunities to our member artists through association;
  • Developing and implementing evaluation methodologies so that we can improve and communicate the success of our efforts;
  • Implementing, often in partnership with academic institutions, research programs and reviews;
  • Developing communication materials and templates to share with organizations that wish to implement our programs in other geographic areas.


  • To facilitate aspiring, emerging and established artists with mental illness and addiction issues to develop and refine their art form through its arts training programs, public performance/exhibit opportunities and partnering with other art organizations.
  • To engage artists and audiences through the visual, performing, literary and media arts.
  • To promote a greater public understanding of mental illness and addiction through the creation, presentation and discussion of the artistic media.
Click To View How We Support Our Mission

We support our mission through:

  • Provision of a supportive environment for the development of artistic projects.
  • Provision of training programs in visual, performing, literary and media arts related to artistic and professional practice.
  • Development of public performance/exhibition opportunities as well as networking opportunities with arts organizations and companies.
  • Ongoing research and evaluation of programs.
  • Dissemination of information and educational materials to the general public and all stakeholder organizations.

Brief History

Workman Arts is the longest-running multidisciplinary arts and mental health organizations in Canada and in the world. Founded in 1987 by Lisa Brown, a former psychiatric nurse at the CAMH, and guided by the principle that the create process is integral to the quest for personal and artistic development, Workman Arts has grown over the years from a theatre company of eight member artists to a multidisciplinary arts organization with over 350 member artists.

Located in the arts district in west-end Toronto, Workman Arts manages a 220-seat theatre, visual and media arts studios and training facilities. Its programs, approach and artistic productions have earned it national and international acclaim. An active Board of Directors with representation from the arts, finance and health care sectors support the staff of eight.

Workman Arts has a close, long-standing partnership with CAMH, Canada’s leading research and clinical facility involved in MH&A. Since inception, Workman Arts has created award-wining performances/exhibitions. These include annual exhibitions in the visual arts Being Scene and Mindset held in leading Toronto arts venues, the production and publication of literary works, over 30 original theatre productions including the Dora award-winning Edward the Crazy Man and Third Eye Looming, the creation of the internationally renowned Madness and Arts World Festival and the first and longest-running mental health film festival in the world, Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival. 

The Future

Workman Arts will serve as an international hub for arts and mental health organizations, performing a variety of activities including communications and education (workshops, seminars, lectures), public events, and research on mental health and the arts.

Click To View More About The Future

In the spring of 2009, Workman Arts moved from its home at 1001 Queen Street to its current location in the former Equity Showcase Theatre at 651 Dufferin.  This is a temporary arrangement while new facilities are developed as a part of the much larger campus revitalization currently underway at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). An exceptional part of this new development will be a “Centre of Excellence”, a unique, state-of-the-art facility which will allow Workman Arts to not only grow its existing programming, but to also expand the depth and breadth of services offered to member artists and the wider community.  It will house a fully accessible arts and learning centre that include a 300 seat theatre, artists’ studios, digital media studio and rehearsal spaces. Ground was recently broken on the new facility and we expect to move in Spring 2020.


View the Workman Arts’s 2015-2016 Annual Report.