2014 Alive Magazine Buzz Lister Andrea Purnell is the Communications and Artistic Director at UMSL’ s Missouri Institute of Mental Health (MIMH). On behalf of the MIMH, she uses her background in the arts to educate the community on matters related to mental health. In addition to her public relations duties at MIMH, Andrea is an actress, writer, director and stage manager. Her acting credits include theater, commercials, industrial films, and movies. She continues to raise awareness of mental health issues in ultra-creative ways. Among her writing credits is the play, “Depression, Whose Disease Is It Anyway,” which she produced for the stage as part of a performing arts program designed to match the actor and the mental health professional in addressing mental illness.
Recipient of the 2013 Grand Center Emerging Artist Visionary Award, Andrea is a native of St. Louis, Missouri having also lived in Los Angeles, California where she worked in theater. Andrea has performed with the San Diego Repertory Theatre, the Ira Aldridge Repertory Players and as Roxanne in St. Louis Shakespeare Company’s Cyrano De Bergerac. Andrea is most proud of her performance in Lyon, France with La’HorsDe where she depicted an American citizen from Pruitt Igoe.
Most recently, Purnell co-directed St. Louis’ first mental health flash mob in collaboration with Provident Inc. and the Independence Center. The “Let’s Talk About It” flash mob featured hundreds of mental health professionals and advocates grooving down Market street to “Funky Town.” As an encore, Purnell and the MIMH showcased visual art, film, poetry and theater during Mental Health Awareness month, with an eye toward expanding the event into an annual festival. In the community the MIMH is part of a collective taking a closer look at the intersection of data and the arts exploring research based art and creative methodologies.
Andrea holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from Fontbonne University and is currently pursuing a certification in sign language with an emphasis in deaf theater. She volunteers as a grants panelist with the Regional Arts Commission and currently serves on the Disability Awareness Commission for the city of Florissant.