Organizations: Nuci's Space
A different drum: At 22, Nuçi Phillips wrote songs and played guitar with a grace and feeling unusual for someone so young, but then, he always had been that kind of kid – deeply affected by The Yearling, always aligned with misfits and the downtrodden. He was just the soulful type to end up strumming ballads in an upstart Athens band named Koncak.
“He felt everything deeply,” says his mother, Linda Phillips.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1996, Nuçi Phillips killed himself, “not because he didn’t want to live, but because he couldn’t bear the intractable pain that was so much a part of his life,” his mother says. He had been struggling with depression for years.
His family and friends channeled their grief into the nonprofit Nuçi Phillips Memorial Foundation, which in 1998 created Nuçi’s Space, a support and resource center for the “emotional, physical, and occupational well-being of the music community,” and it since has become a hip and healing mainstay of the Athens music scene.
“Depression is not just a creative person’s disease,” says director Bob Sleppy. “It affects people from all walks of life. But being an artist usually entails a certain amount of introspection and sensitivity, so musicians can be especially vulnerable.”
Moreoever, Stratocasters do not come with health insurance.
In harmony: So Nuçi’s Space has joined forces with counselors, psychiatrists and other medical professionals to make treatment affordable and to remove the stigma and other red-tape obstacles that often prevent artists from seeking help. Musicians pay $10 for a counseling session and $20 to see a psychiatrist. A general practitioner also treats minor ailments, and audiologists and optometrists provide low-cost ear plugs and eyeglasses. Support groups meet at “the Space,” as it is known, which also provides four soundproof practice rooms, a performance area, a library and a coffee bar.
“Creative work can be lonely work, so people can plug into a supportive network of peers here,” Sleppy says.
Grace notes: So far, Nuçi’s Space has assisted more than 650 musicians, on a budget of about $100,000, derived mostly from private donations and grants.
“I don’t know if Nuçi’s Space would have ‘saved’ Nuçi,” says his mother, “but I do think he would have sought help there. I believe we have been instrumental in saving lives. As the mom of a son who died by suicide, nothing is more rewarding than having helped to save someone else’s child.” – Candice Dyer