From left: Michu, Lope, Richard

From left: Michu, Lope, Richard


Richard Allen White

Mr. White was born in Pomona, California during the wonderful turbulent summer of '68. A public elementary experience and divorce of parents shaped his pre-adolescent education. Then a private Christian middle school and public high school ensued. Fast Times at Ridgemont High hit the theaters. His older sister entered the navy. His early education was rounded out by four years at a two year community college and a fast but intense term of service in a dozen fast food jobs. His aspiring career in faster foods and living was tragically/magically cut short by the diagnosis Chronic Paranoid Schizophrenia with a substance abuse disorder tacked on for good measure. Around this time the United States Army denied his voluntary enlistment.

Clean and sober since the comet appeared in troubled skies of January of '97, Richard started smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in earnest. This period was marked by hanging around with the dual diagnosis caffeine and nicotine folks at the Las Encinas Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA) meetings in Pasadena. Richard started following the advice in Dr. E. Fuller Torrey's book Surviving Schizophrenia. When he started treatment, Richard thought he was a god, now he finds himself middle aged, paunchy, smoke-free and writing about himself in the third person. While writing his poster bio he decided to do an ill-advised change of voice:

 In my mid-thirties, I earned a degree in Second Generation Business Information Technology (2BIT) with an emphasis on office clerical cubism. This academic success enabled me to get a job as an unarmed security officer for three and a half years. I took drugs in high school because I was insecure. It was good karma to provide the illusion of safety and security to others. This is how recovery happens.

I married Elizabeth Draffan Taylor-White in 2006 and we moved to Austin in 2008. I started volunteering at Austin State Hospital in various capacities until I ended up in the Spiritual Care department. Under the super-vision of two former Army Chaplains I try to point to the loving mystery. It is easier to see when you are beyond human aide. If there is a way out of the schizophrenic maze I seem to quickly forget unless I attempt to show others and keep my memory fresh. I agreed to have this poster made about my experience to foster openness and to court the mystery behind it all.

Michu Benaim Steiner & Lope Gutierrez-Ruiz

Michu Benaim Steiner and Lope Gutierrez-Ruiz are the founders of cultural management firm Gopher Projects, and the design and communications studio In-House International. Together, they have been working in visual arts, culture, design, and communications for the last ten years.

The Gopher Projects in all their forms are aimed at showcasing emerging talents in visual arts, design, music and literary arts. Founded in 2010, the Gopher Illustrated Magazine has released two editions of its magazine, with overwhelming positive reviews by media worldwide. The Gopher has also been featured in a number of prestigious festivals in Italy, Japan, the Netherlands Singapore, Canada, the United Kingdom and the US. In 2011 the Gopher received an Idea Fund Grant, a re-granting initiative of the Andy Warhol Foundation, created specifically for Texas-based projects. In 2012 it was recipient of a Cultural Arts Funding grant from the City of Austin.

Expanding their interest in visual communications, in late 2011 Michu and Lope partnered with British designer Alexander Wright to create In-House International, a graphic design and communication studio with offices in South and North America. The studio specializes in branding, print design, motion graphics, web development and communications. The studio has already been awarded a number of prestigious design prizes, among these the Ibero-american Design Biennial (BID) Award – the most important design award in the Spanish-speaking world – and the Print Regional Design Award (which is selected by Print Magazine) for the Southwest region of the United States.

Ms. Benaim is currently completing an MBA at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, where she is a recipient of a Consortium Fellowship. Mr. Gutierrez-Ruiz is a current TED Conferences Senior Fellow. They live in Austin, TX, and have their studio at the Austin Technology Incubator – Longhorn Startup Camp.

 From left: Brandi, Rebecca

From left: Brandi, Rebecca


Brandi L. Rivera

Brandi L. Rivera is a Certified Peer Support Specialist currently working with OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions. She was recently appointed as a member of the Behavioral Health Integration Advisory Committee to assist with planning and development needs to integrate Medicaid behavioral health services.

Ms. Rivera has formal training in Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) services, Trauma Informed Care and PTSD with Dual Diagnosis. She holds a degree in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Phoenix and will be completing her Master’s degree in Social Work. She is a volunteer member with the Travis County Sheriff Victim Services Crisis team and was appointed to a Team Lead position with this agency. She has worked with victims of crisis for the past 15 years.

Ms. Rivera lives in beautiful Austin, Texas and has two amazing rescue dogs, Kona and Jax. She has lived a grateful 6 years in sobriety. In her free time she enjoys hiking the trails in and around Austin and spending quality time with family and friends.

Rebecca Layton

Rebecca Layton is an Austin-based artist and textile designer. Her work often draws upon the decorative arts, and employs a combination of media, including drawing, painting, printmaking, and textile arts. Most recently, she spent the past few years in India as a Fulbright Senior Scholar from the US to do research and studio work on block printing design and miniature painting, then to teach art in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The work she produced in India—in collaboration with the block printers she met and worked with—was exhibited in Delhi, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand and currently at the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing in Jaipur through December 2014. She has also produced work in collaboration with the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia and was the recipient of the William Graf Travel Grant, which brought her to England to conduct research on the history of wallpaper at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  

In the US, she has exhibited at the Brooklyn Historical Society, St. John’s University Art Museum, New York University, Hunter College Gallery, Parrish Art Museum, as well as at Artists Space, Exit Art, and White Columns in New York. She has been the recipient of artist residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Skowhegan School of Art, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Jentel Artist Residency, Kunstlerhaus in Salzburg, Austria, and the Wurlitzer Foundation. She holds a BA in English Literature from Barnard College, Columbia University and a MFA in Combined Media from Hunter College.

 From left: Claudia, Jessica

From left: Claudia, Jessica


Jessica Saner

Jessica Saner was born in upstate New York.  She left home at age 16 and found the guitar to be an asset to outpour her emotions at this time. She started moving around the country at 17. She has spent the largest amount of time in Texas, New York and Atlanta, but has toured the country a few times and spent time in Canada as well. In 2005, she landed in Austin, Texas, where she currently resides.

Jessica began volunteering with the Peer Support Program at Austin State Hospital in 2012. She is currently working as the lead Certified Peer Specialist on a unit that is piloting Person Centered Recovery Planning, which aims to have individuals direct their own recovery plan and puts emphasis on the peer specialist role. Jessica was also recently promoted to a leadership position within the program, where she supervises peer support volunteers and helps integrate newly hired peer specialists. She enjoys spending time with her three dogs, riding her motorcycle, cooking for her friends and collecting vinyl records.

Claudia Gizell Aparicio Gamundi

Claudia Gizell Aparicio Gamundi was born and raised in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. She received her Associate’s Degree in Visual Communications and currently is the in-house graphic designer at Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, Texas. She is also one-third of Puro Chingon Collective and Volunteer Director for AIGA, the professional association for design, Austin chapter.

Her design work has been featured in Cosmopolitan Latina, Austin American Statesman, The Austin Chronicle, Treasure City Thrift, Worker’s Defense Project, Austin Film Society, and Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre to name a few.  She recently completed the design of a retrospective publication of works by Austin artist Steve Brudniak.

 From left: Elvia, Brooke

From left: Elvia, Brooke


Elvia Knoll

Since 2009, Elvia Knoll has been the Executive Director of La Via Sana, a nonprofit that wants to improve access to wellness for individuals with mental health issues and illnesses because of personal experiences with mental health, wellness and physical illnesses.

Elvia's passion for volunteering and philanthropy has included many food pantries and organizations around town, such as Manos de Cristo, Trinity House, Capital Area Food Bank, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, St. Andrew's Food Pantry, and the Giving Garden and other outreach opportunities in Austin. She enjoys the hands on ministry and is involved also in the women's ministry at Riverbend Church.

Prior to becoming involved in philanthropy work, in 2004, Elvia studied at the Culinary Academy of Austin and became a professional culinarian. She has worked for Word of Mouth, World Market, Mi Colombia, Chamberlain's Market, Jamba Juice and Target Cafe.

In 2007, a pivotal turning point was getting a job at Chamberlain's Market, a health food store in Florida, where Elvia learned about holistic living, juicing, supplements, and health from an alternative perspective.  Elvia helped La Via Sana become a partner at Soma Vida in East Austin – in 2011- -a Work/Balance Wellness Center that helps entrepreneurs reach their fullest potential while helping others. She coordinated efforts for La Via Sana to partner with Threads of Hope, as well as other social entrepreneurs to create a program for Wellness Scholarships called Austin Healing Circle.

Elvia was born in Bogota, Colombia, and is completely fluent in Spanish and English.  She is a dual citizen. She grew up in New Jersey, and migrated to Texas in 2002. She loves music, fine art, and cooking.

Brooke Gassiot

Brooke Gassiot was raised west of Austin on a 2000-acre ranch. Growing up, she swam in a spring-fed swimming hole and spent summers in the desert mountains of Mexico. Her father is a carpenter and her mother is a textile artist and as a child, Brooke remembers designing and building being a constant. As a teenager, she worked in her mother’s studio painting silk, scrubbing tables and implementing designs.

Brooke received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art with a focus on sculpture and painting from the University of Texas. In 2005, she studied in Italy on full scholarship, giving her the opportunity to visit the Venice Biennale which inspired her first large-scale installation created upon her return to Texas.

Her current work incorporates video, light and sculpture and has been displayed at venues including Blue Star Contemporary Art Center in San Antonio, Co-Lab Projects and the Austin Contemporary in Austin. She enjoys bringing the audience into her process and letting their stories shape the context of the work.