Coalition Ingenu works with mental health centers and support systems, homeless shelters, and rehabilitation programs to promote and encourage creativity as a means to psychological and emotional well-being; and to create a complete system for the recognition of creative achievement by self-taught artists marginalized by extraordinary circumstances.

Coalition Ingenu helps with the development and facilitation of open studio art classes and visits with existing art programs and artists on a regular basis. With the written consent of the artists and/or program facilitators, C.I. photographs the artwork and builds portfolios of slides and prints to be used to solicit art exhibits in galleries, community centers, hospitals, churches, bookstores and other venues.

Coalition Ingenu treats all artists with dignity and respect and works hard to establish relationships of mutual trust and friendship. For each exhibit, C.I. frames all the work or otherwise prepares it for presentation; designs, produces and mails invitations and programs, hangs the artwork, and manages all proceeds and returns. Proceeds from sales go to the artists with a portion going back into the program to help cover costs.

Founded in 1995, Coalition Ingenu has presented over 100 exhibits, displayed over 6000 works of art representing well over 200 self-taught artists, and worked with more than 45 hospitals and nonprofits from West Chester, PA to Haddonfield, NJ. Many of the artists have sold artwork to private and corporate collectors, and selected work and/or articles about the collective have appeared on calendars, greeting cards, catalogs, murals, CD covers, newspapers, magazines, numerous web sites, and books.

It has long been recognized that art making is a valuable therapeutic activity, allowing the artists opportunities to heal emotional wounds through self-expression, develop social skills and self-confidence, and build positive work habits. At the very least, negative thoughts and feelings are often suspended during the creative process. But genuine self-esteem seems to involve finding places to "belong" and ways to contribute to others.

When the results of their creative efforts are displayed in dignified art exhibits, and people come from all walks of life to appreciate and purchase their artwork, the social stigmas surrounding circumstances of poverty and mental illness are diminished and the artists are transformed into self-motivated and valued participants in a respected cultural tradition.

For some, the ability to see something through to completion is a major breakthrough. For others, a passion is born which results in a clear and powerful sense of purpose and self-worth.

Over the years since its' inception, Coalition Ingenu has developed a following among art lovers and mental health consumer advocates alike. The recent surge in the popularity of art by "self-taught " artists underscores a collective need in our society (with its' primary focus on results and efficiency) to rediscover and preserve an appreciation for the pure process of creativity independent from a deliberate emphasis on results.

Visitors to these exhibits are enriched by the striking charm and personality of a unique kind of artwork not motivated by expectations of fame and fortune, and not significantly influenced by academic tradition or preconceived notions of what art is supposed to look like.

It is our contention that art is comprised of both skill and creativity. Skills can be learned and taught, but creativity refers to the aspect of art making that involves personal imagination and invention.

The artists of Coalition Ingenu have been generally precluded from formal training or significant exposure to fine art by circumstances of extreme poverty or mental illness. But the inaccessibility of education forces them to draw upon the more creative method of learning by visualization, experimentation and adjustment. Although they may not be regarded as masters of skill and technique, they deserve recognition, by virtue of their independence from academic training, as masters of the creative process and purveyors of inviolate imagination.

Robert Bullock, founder and director of Coalition Ingenu, is a self-taught artist and muralist. Former positions include: Art Program Coordinator and facilitator of open studio art classes at Project H.O.M.E., a nonprofit organization working toward ending the cycle of homelessness. Muralist with the Philadelphia Department of Recreations' Mural Arts Program for six years, and gallery curator and director of member services at the Journey Home Community Enrichment Center.