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Brendan Gould – Winning Artist & Humanitarian

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Brendon Lead

May, 2013 and Brendan Gould had just moved his company, Honor Guardianship Services, into their present location in Albuquerque’s North Valley. It was his first day there and he found himself in a nondescript stucco building just off the road where the historic El Camino Real once ran from Santa Fe to Mexico City. Brendan sighed as he surveyed his dank, white walls inside the office complex and he began to hang his paintings: a couple landscapes, a portrait, and an abstract piece. As he stood back to look at the paintings, he felt his tired eyes match those of the portrait he had positioned behind his desk, and a silent prayer ran through his mind that, above all, he might be able to make a difference. “Please, God, please, – help me make this work.”

            A self-described Midwesterner, Brendan was born in Indiana in 1979 and moved with his family to Illinois when he was still very young.Undoubtedly, one of the great factors in his lifelong commitment to the mentally ill is his experience with it in his own family from an early age. “Everyone’s family has it,” he says. “I’m not unique.” What is unique, however, is the way these experiences shaped him both personally and professionally.

Brendan Gould

Brendan Gould

            Brendan’s father had demons and struggled with alcoholism for years, ultimately drowning in divorce and a broken family. For most of his early life Brendan and his sister lived with their mother. Like many single parents, their mother struggled to balance a career and family life and her children were often left alone. They learned to be independent, getting themselves to school, finding their way home and navigating the rocky path of adolescence on their own.

            Brendan remembers first wanting to take up art on a childhood visit to the Art Institute in Chicago. “Van Gogh had used blue and green to evoke shadows in his hair and I thought it was magic. Then I looked into his eyes and I saw that he was sad and lonely and I felt at that moment that I wasn’t alone anymore.” Brendan took up painting and sculpting and carried this passion with him to St. Ambrose University where he majored in art. “When I look into a face its character is what makes me want to paint it. I could care less about the stuff that doesn’t have to be there like wrinkles and hair.”

            After college he met his future wife, Maria, and followed her back to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2007. Finding himself unemployed and unable to find work as an artist, he began to look for a job in the social services field. He had prior experience as a direct care staff member at a group home and showed up to apply for work with a company that he assumed was in this business, only to find out after the fact they were a guardianship agency. However, the mistake paid off as Brendan was hired on the spot. Three years later he founded Honor Guardianship Services.

            “The role of our legal guardian is to act in the best interest of the incapacitated person we serve.” It’s a unique career path in many ways. Currently, no colleges or universities offer degree programs in legal guardianship. A legal guardian is assigned to disabled or elderly individuals who are unable to take care of themselves. Guardians assume the role of a de facto parent, making decisions, among other things, about their client’s healthcare, finances and living arrangements.

Both Paintings are Brendan's

Both Paintings are Brendan’s

 Last year Honor Guardianship Services expanded the scope of its business even more by taking on the work of       treatment guardianship for individuals who are mentally ill but continue to serve as their own guardians. It differs from traditional legal guardianship in that the powers and responsibilities of the treatment guardian are more limited. The treatment guardian can only oversee their client’s medications and serves as an advocate and natural supporter. Like most states, New Mexico continues to struggle with a lack of resources for the mentally ill. There are a variety of reasons for this but mostly it is because of a stigma that continues to exist: “Mental illness scares people. They look at someone who is bi-polar or schizophrenic and they don’t understand it. It scares them.” This stigma is something that Brendan is working to change. Since being awarded the treatment guardianship contract he has testified before the state legislature and worked with committees in Santa Fe to generate more funding and more awareness.            Brendan is quick to discount his own work on behalf of his clients. “As human beings it’s our responsibility to help people. I’m just doing my best to live up to that responsibility.” Ultimately, his two distinct callings have come together in a surprising and inspiring way. As a statewide leader working on behalf of the mentally ill, Brendan is working to make legal and social changes. However, as an artist, whose work regularly features his clients, he aspires to achieve something even greater – a spiritual change, by focusing on the humanity in those that society still often overlooks.


Brendan Gould thought


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12 Comments - (Leave a comment! »)

  • Karen - Ohio said:

    The strong lead drew me immediately into this story. And the flow of the writing served to tell a story that was quite interesting. The author promised to show the reader how Brendan’s early life influenced his career choices and his art. And he delivered.

  • Kelsey - Minnesota said:

    I like what I see on the magazine, and I think the content is really important because these heroes may otherwise go unnoticed.

    I like what this article highlights because mental illness is abundant, yet underfunded everywhere. I think that the painting on this page really works to grab attention because of the yellow-brown-blue type of color scheme. The face is also very memorable.

    I am really enjoying the content of all these articles.

  • Kevin – Thailand said:

    I read a few articles. They are good. I like the feel of this article about Brendan Gould Albuquerque’s North Valley and his art. Art always interests me

  • Renée said:

    I just finished reading the article about Brendan Gould. I really liked it! We need more people like him in this world, who care about those who are the forgotten ones or the thrown away, so to speak. I could really relate to him because I too reach out to those pitiful ones whom the world seems to have forgotten all about or have rejected. This is a great magazine.

  • Natalie – North Carolina said:

    As someone involved in community arts and local social activism, Nathan McKenzie’s “Brendan Gould—Winning Artist and Humanitarian” immediately piqued my interest. Overall, article is stellar.
    What I like most about this article is how artfully it pays respect to a humble man. The introduction is engaging, compelling me to watch a man moving into a new office with a sense quiet desperation instead of enthusiasm. His weariness, his unremarkable surroundings, and “Please, God. Make this work” make me wonder where his weariness came from. I liked him already. Whatever “this” was, I wanted to see it resolved. This is the kind of article that gets people to care.
    The article does well to give meaningful context to his work. The detailed background of his childhood and alcoholic father gives me a point of origin for his development as a humanitarian. The memory of the Van Gogh painting creates a intimate connection, and acknowledges him as someone who understands isolation and its devastating effects on humanity. The photos and description of Gould’s art as client-inspired explains art as a vehicle and expression of social change. Very powerful.
    The statement, “there are no degree programs in guardianship” made me think past the man, his field, and the scope of the article. Lack of education specifically on social work had never crossed my mind, or the possibility that efficacy of social work is directly affected.
    Gould’s work prior to his gaurdianship company is outlined well, but because social work comes from a deeply personal place, I find myself wanting more explanation of why Gould chose to work as a direct care staff member at a group home.
    After Gould says, “Mental illness scares people. They look at someone who is bi-polar or schizophrenic and they don’t understand it. It scares them,” I looked for an explicit, if repetitive, statement that fear and ignorance is what prevents adequate financial support for treatment and care. Perhaps the rhetorical preference is strictly personal … I see stigmatization of mental illness even in the field itself.

    I truly believe in the power of bringing so-called “ordinary” people and community heroes to light. Inundated with mostly tragic and frightening news, it is easy to think this world damaged beyond repair. When I read articles like the ones in Winners Within Us, I feel moved enough to believe in enduring positive change. It’s a shame that stories like these are underrepresented. It’s this stuff that mobilizes people to get involved in their communities, which is where real change starts.

  • Nathan - Author said:

    I’m honored, very nice work in publishing my article, thanks for mentioning Maria. Oh hey this art work is for sale, just kidding, thought it might be funny to use this opportunity to shamelessly try and sell paintings. Ha!! No really they’re for sale. I’m going to watch hotel Rwanda now, peace ,thanks — Nathan

  • Jeanette said:

    Excellent read.Enjoy it

  • Keihla - Rhode Island said:

    I particularly liked the writing style and the story of how his work relates to his art, highlighting his concomitant contributions to his community.

  • Shaina - Washington said:

    I think overall, this is a good article. The beginning draws in the reader like it’s a story instead of just an informational piece, which I believes makes the opening much stronger. Sometimes people read articles for fun or to actually get something out of it and this one definitely works well in both aspects.

  • Randy – USA said:

    I found this article interesting and helpful.

  • Sheila – South Carolina said:

    I particularly liked this story about Brandon Gould, a man who defied his genealogical and personal history with mental illness to bring awareness for those who fear the disease, and hope for those who feel trapped by its limitations. I am passionate about helping society understand those who have been misunderstood, and as a result abandoned.

  • Van – Pennsylvania said:

    The opening paragraph quickly gave me a sense that, not only was I going to read an interesting story, I was going to connect with Brendan on an emotional level. By the end of the story I not only gained an appreciation for what he has accomplished but also a desire to know him as a person. Good job.

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