Written by Zelda Speight and photos by Ella Ferguson, we are revamping this piece to shine a light on the incredible Nuçi’s Space. Originally written in May or 2014, Nuçi’s Space still has the coolest things going on. Check out the calendar on their webiste here and get involved!
Nuçi’s Space was founded on love. Many don’t know the story of Nuçi’s Space or the extent to which it benefits our community. The non-profit began in 2000 by Linda Phillips—the mother of Nuçi.
Nuçi was diagnosed with clinical depression as a teenager. He came from a supportive family but struggled with the complications that mental illness often creates. He was a student in Athens and a locally recognized guitarist. Music was his gift, his outlet, and a coping mechanism. As he felt the negative symptoms of depression worsen, he sought help but was told he would have to wait for one month before seeing a doctor. Within that month, he took his own life—November 26, 1996.
An incredible tragedy as this shakes families, friends, and entire communities. Unfortunately, mental illness and other related issues commonly go unrecognized and often lack sympathy from individuals. It is a difficult realm of health to understand and even more difficult for the victim to live with. After Nuçi’s passing, his family sought to create an organization in honor of him and his devotion to music, while reaching others in a timely manner who are challenged with similar diagnoses.
I met with Bob Sleppy, the Executive Director of Nuçi’s Space, to learn more about the non-profit because I, like so many others, have a limited knowledge of the organization and mental illness. My time with Bob was not only educational but evoked compassion, a sense of humanity, and empathy. Ella (our photographer) and I both felt ourselves emotionally connected to Nuçi’s Space’s cause once we left. Bob was involved from the beginning. He was a student in Athens and also a musician. He attended one of the beginning fundraisers for Nuçi’s Space and he found himself with a desire to help. He had connections in the Athens music scene and also received his MBA—both very helpful to a non-profit. Eventually they were up and running and as he says, “I volunteered myself into a position”. They were creating an organization “for musicians by musicians” that would meet the needs of creative expression as well as mental health.
Today Nuçi’s Space is a resource center for counseling and doctors, a practice space, and hangout spot—essentially it’s a support center and much more. Their staff act as liaison to the appropriate resources, assist with payments, provide affordable practice rooms, and people who will listen—because don’t we all need someone who will just listen? They work with several small practices in Athens — the Athens Nurses Clinic, Family Counseling Services, and many other equipped individuals. When speaking with Bob, he spoke of the importance of investing in somebody and “letting them know that you are present”. I agree when he says that too often we forget the importance of relationships, and Nuçi’s Space strives to provide that. And from the looks of it, they’re succeeding.Since their beginning, Nuçi’s Space has increased their funding and the individuals that they reach. Whether you’re looking for a practice space, for a counselor or doctor, or a friend, the folks at Nuçi’s Space will “be present”. Practice spaces are always available and if you’re in need of services related to mental or physical health, you are always welcome to pop in, email, or call. As for upcoming events, they host a summer camp for teens ranging from eleven to seventeen years old. At camp, they expand their music knowledge and talents, while increasing self-development, coping skills, and addressing issues that come with being a teenager and a musician. For example, Bob mentioned an exercise that they do at camp called “Survival Skills for Creative Minds”. Each day they address topics that may come up in the life of a creative and a teen. Topics range from embarrassing moments that could happen on stage to addressing drugs and alcohol. This is a two-week camp in the summer time where at the end of the second week, the kids get to perform on stage in front of their peers. Personally, this would terrify me to no end but Bob explained it as not only a time for the kids to gain experience but also a time to be “surrounded by encouragement so that there’s room to fail. It’s powerful”. When said like that, it does sound powerful and influential in not only the musicians’ creativity but also their self-image and confidence.
My experience at Nuçi’s Space and the feeling that I walked away with cannot be fully expressed in this article. The impact that this organization has made on so many individual lives in astounding and joyful. It’s an incredible feeling to see people who genuinely love what they do and are dedicated to the relationships built. Bob reflected on the Athens community for a moment mentioning that in Athens, “when someone needed help, we bind together”. The Athens community takes care of its own and Nuçi’s Space is essentially a center for that. So if you’ve never been to Nuçi’s Space or you’re curious about what they offer, drop by, grab some coffee, maybe play piano for a minute, and get to know some really kind folks. Check out their website (linked above) to learn more about their cause and how you can help.