pop-up institute

The Pop-up Institute, jointly conceived by Lily Martin and Kerstin Schoch, is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation as part of World Knowledge: Structural Support for ‘Rare Subjects’ (funding line 2: Science Communication). It is a collaborative project between the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences and the HKS – University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Ottersberg. It runs in Berlin since January 2021 with a duration of two years. The Pop-up Institute does science communication. Its goal is to reduce the stigma of mental illness with the means of Creative Arts Therapies.

the stigma of mental illness

In the general population, the lack of reference to and contact with people affected means that mental illnesses are often subject to fear and prejudice. This in turn increases the social isolation of individuals with those experiences. The stigma associated with mental illness is therefore also considered a “second illness”.

the pop-up institute

The Pop-up Institute, a location-independent and project-based institute, addresses precisely this social problem: It aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness by using artistic media and artistic therapeutic methods to communicate the experiences of those affected.

In cooperation with artists, creative art therapists and people affected by mental illness, non-verbal and pre-reflective experiences are collected in various artistic media (movement/dance, visual arts, music), systematically processed and presented to an audience with the help of innovative formats (e.g. performance, exhibition). The resulting (kin)aesthetic experience enables a sensual, pre-reflective access to concepts that often elude rational understanding as well as verbal explanation.

schizophrenia and creative arts therapies

In its first project, the Pop-up Institute deals with one of the most serious mental illnesses: schizophrenia. Within the framework of a series of transdisciplinary workshops with diverse cooperation partners, an interactive and intermedial exhibition is to be conceptualized and shown in an exhibition house in Berlin within two years. The goal of the exhibition is to make schizophrenia understandable: What does it sound like; what does it feel like to have schizophrenia? Tangible, sensory experiences can promote empathy and, in turn, reduce stigma and prejudice against mental illness.

Click here to visit the Pop-up Institute on the Volkswagen Foundation website.

portrait photography of Kerstin (left) and Lily (right)
Kerstin Schoch (left) and Lily Martin (right), Foto: Simon Reichel

the project team

Our collaborators:

The Pop-up Institute collaborates with the following institutions:

Several people look at a resonance wall on which paper sheets with drawings and text hang.



Lily Martin
Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences
Villestr. 3, 53347 Alfter, Germany

Kerstin Schoch
HKS – University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Ottersberg
Am Wiestebruch 68, 28870 Ottersberg, Germany


who is the pop-up institute?

The Pop-up Institute was founded by us – Lily Martin and Kerstin Schoch. As its core team we take care of organizational, financial and practical matters. All projects of the Pop-up Institute take place with cooperation partners. Our first project deals with schizophrenia and aims to reduce the societal stigma associated with it. Lily is the contact person in this project regarding schizophrenia and Kerstin regarding Creative Arts Therapies. Additionally, we invited collaborators with different expertise in the field. They consist of four people who have experience with schizophrenia and four other people with experience in arts and/or Creative Arts therapies.

what is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that has a large impact on the personal and social life of affected individuals. It is characterized by positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are also called plus symptoms. They are called that way because they denote symptoms that are added to the previous perception: Delusions, hallucinations (hearing voices), the confusion of thoughts and actions. Negative symptoms, on the other hand, describe a reduction: decreased emotionality, lack of fun, social withdrawal. For positive symptoms, there are antipsychotics – medications aimed at intercepting and reducing the change in perception. For negative symptoms, there is still a lack of suitable medication. Almost all clinics offer affected individuals psychotherapies and Creative Arts Therapies in addition to treatment with medication. Especially movement therapies have proven to be helpful for negative symptoms.

what are creative arts therapies?

Creatice Arts Therapies are forms of therapy that work with different artistic media. They include art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, and dance and movement therapy. Creative Arts Therapies are used in clinics, private practices and studios, or in schools. They can be useful for different people with very different issues and topics. In comparison to talk therapies, they also work with artistic means in addition to language. It is about expressing thoughts, feelings and experiences in a playful way – by painting, drawing, sculpting, photographing, singing, making music or dancing. In this way, I can find a new expression for a personal topic that is currently occupying me, without necessarily having to name the topic in words or explain it to another person. This is especially helpful when it is difficult to talk about my own experiences or to find appropriate words for them. Unlike a conversation, translating my experiences into artistic processes and products allows outsiders to relive my experiences. The artistic expression of my experiences can provide me with new perspectives, help me to communicate my experiences and develop myself personally. Thus, in artistic-therapeutic processes, personal expression is paramount. It is not about painting a particularly “beautiful picture” or developing a particularly “great choreography”. Nevertheless, it is possible to continue working with the artistic work that is created. It can be taken home, presented, discussed, exhibited or performed.

what are you doing in your project: art or creative arts therapies?

We are equally committed to both, art and Creative Arts Therapies, and value post-disciplinarity. That means, we are concerned with the subject, not with who comes from which discipline. Therefore, for us there is no either/or. In our work, art and Creative Arts Therapies flow into each other and cannot be easily separated. In our conception of work, artistic and psychological processes are interconnected. An aesthetic view is just as important to us as inner and social processes. In our first project, we are using a combination of different arts to create an interactive exhibition for adolescents and young people. In this respect, there is an aesthetic product, i.e. a total work of art, which will be shown later. But it is not exclusively about the final exhibition. The creative process is just as important to us. Creative Arts Therapies complement the arts by specifically including psychological and social processes. While art does not have to serve an external purpose (L’art pour l’art), Creative Arts Therapies pursue a L’art pour l’autre, i.e. an “art for each other”. We stand for a democratization of arts, meaning we want to make arts accessible to all. Previous experience or so-called talent is not required to participate in artistic therapies. So I don’t necessarily have to study dance, theater, music or visual arts to express myself artistically.

what does process-oriented mean?

Artistic and inner processes cannot be planned or predicted. Therefore, our way of working is process-oriented. It flexibly responds to everything that emerges in the process. We work towards an exhibition. However, the focus is not on the “product” of the exhibition, but on the creation itself. In concrete terms, this means that we don’t have a fixed target for what this exhibition has to look like, but rather develop it together with all collaborators on an equal footing.

what does participatory mean?

Participation means co-determination. We work in a participatory way, i.e. all collaborators have an equal say. We try to avoid hierarchies, rankings or power imbalances between the participants. The opinion and experience of an individual counts just as much as the opinion or experience of an artist or artistic therapist. As the core team of the institute, we take care of the organizational aspects. In the artistic process and in the exhibition there are no guidelines. We want to give space to what evolves between collaborators and in the artistic media. As already mentioned, we want to make the arts accessible to everyone. Previous experience or so-called talent is not required to participate in the first project of the Pop-up Institute.