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Home » 9Muses: Supporting Mental Health Through Art & Peer Support, with Nicole Storrs | EDB 323 – DIFFERENT BRAINS

9Muses: Supporting Mental Health Through Art & Peer Support, with Nicole Storrs | EDB 323 – DIFFERENT BRAINS

9Muses: Supporting Mental Health Through Art & Peer Support, with Nicole Storrs | EDB 323 - DIFFERENT BRAINS

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9Muses Art Center’s Nicole Storrs shares how their drop-in center is helping people with mental health challenges.

9Muses Art Center is a drop-in center located in Fort Lauderdale, FL. They are a program of Mental Health America of Southeast Florida providing free peer-driven behavioral health support to adults with mental health and substance abuse disorders. The center has a fully functioning studio for fine arts classes and ceramic art. Participants may choose from a broad array of visual and performing arts. Classes and personalized instruction along with individual studio time allow members to create according to their own personal “muse.” Evidenced-based wellness activities and anxiety and depression support groups are held weekly. Members can engage in stimulating activity, free from the stigma of mental illness.

The center has been promoting wellness for over 20 years and functions successfully as a peer-run organization. Members are free to come and go as they please, participate in any art classes, support groups, and wellness activities they wish, or sit and enjoy coffee and conversation with other members. Positive interaction creates a sense of empowerment and promotes mental health. Come join us! See what a Muse can do for you…

For more about 9Muses: 9musesartcenter.org

For more information about programs by Mental Health America of Southeast Florida: mhasefl.org

To reach the SETH Line: (954) 578-5640 

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FULL TRANSCRIPTION


Note: the following transcription was automatically generated. Some imperfections may exist.     

DR HACKIE REITMAN (HR): 

Hi, everyone, welcome to Exploring Different Brains. I’m your host, Dr. Hackie Reitman, and today we’re interviewing Nicole Storrs, who’s the adult services director for the 9Muses Art Center.

NICOLE STORRS (NS): 

Welcome, Nicole. Thank you for having me.

HR: 

Well, thank you for being here. And thanks for all you’re doing for those of us with different brains. Tell us about the center, the 9Muses Art Center.

NS: 

Absolutely. We are a drop in center underneath the umbrella of Mental Health America of Southeast Florida, we have been around since 1996, in the same location, based on the drop in center model that became popular in the late 80s, early 90s. Meaning that individuals can come and go as they please, we’re a membership based organization, there are a few criteria to become a member. And after that, our calendar of events is available classes. In our classes, wellness activities, and support groups are available to our membership and they choose whatever they would like to participate in.

HR: 

Nicole, for those of us who are not familiar with the term, define for us drop in center.

NS: 

So drop in center pretty much means that an individual can come and go as they please. And if they just want to come in and have a cup of coffee, and sort of hang out, we are that place. That doesn’t mean that the people that work in at the drop in center won’t try to encourage a member to participate in something. But we won’t push too hard. You know, if somebody just really doesn’t feel like talking that day, they don’t feel like drawing. They don’t have it in them, but they wanted to get out of the house. That’s the main function of a drop in center. It is socialization and it’s prevention from isolation.

HR: 

Now, these are adults?

NS: 

Correct. 18 and over 18

HR: 

and over, okay, so walk us through the process. I’m someone who’s 18 years or older, very older, or I’m the parents of someone whose brain is a little bit different and needs to go to your center. Walk us through the process of what happens. Somebody is in need of support, and they walk into your drop in center.

NS: 

So all of our staff are available to give a tour at any time. We are a parent organization. So our staff are individuals that have been there, they know what it’s like. If somebody were to walk in, they would be greeted probably by most of the members as well as the staff, and asked how we can help. If someone has a directive, you know, I know about your place, I would like to become a member, then we can help them through the membership application and give them a tour, explain the calendar to them, introduce them to all the staff. The membership application is several pages, it looks fairly daunting. However, a few of those pages are for the members benefit. We make sure that everybody has the information that they need to participate our member agreement, which is our rules, what happens when our member agreement is broken? The in the steps to that. And clients responsibilities and rights, also the grievance procedure. So all of that is included in the membership application. And the other two criteria besides being 18. And over as the individual has a Broward County address. And they check a box yes, that they have sought mental health services in the past five years.

HR: 

Okay, what types of individuals are your prospective clients?

NS: 

Well, as we know, when it comes to mental wellness, it’s for everybody. And mental illness does not is not concerned with any of your characteristics. It is available to all of us, it can happen to everybody perhaps situationally or perhaps a lifelong journey of recovery.

HR: 

So anyone over 18, any kind of mental health issues.

NS: 

And we don’t need to know we’re not, we’re not privy to any health information, because we’re not a provider. So everything is self reported. It can be the loss of a loved one, and you’re suffering from situational depression. It can be you have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and you’re on medication, maybe you have depression, but you’re not on medication right now. And that’s okay, too.

HR: 

And you’ve made the distinction, you are not a service provider.

NS: 

Correct. So we don’t have any doctors, no therapists, we’re all we’re 100% Pure services. Me meaning individuals are that are working at the center are in recovery from their own for their own mental wellness.

HR: 

Understood, that’s a very interesting concept. Now talk a little about the role of creativity in your program.

NS: 

Absolutely. So as I said, we don’t have any therapists. So the, the idea that usually comes to people’s minds at first is art therapy. And that would be run for specific reasons by a specific person with a specific degree. We are more art as therapy, we see it as being the act of it is simply therapeutic. And we have a lot of ways to sort of allow self expression, from personal experiences to come to the surface. If one chooses to participate in them.

HR: 

So on your staff, there are no therapists is nothing like that. It’s just…

NS: 

We do have certified recovery peer specialists. That’s as far as we go when it comes to letters after people’s names.

HR: 

Tell us what is a certified recovery specialist. There may be people in our audience who want to become one.

NS: 

Absolutely, yes, no 100%. So a certified recovery peer specialist. The qualifications can also be found on the Florida Certification Board website, just in case I miss something. However, it’s an individual with lived experience, either through themselves or through a loved one that they perhaps were a caretaker for or grew up with. The lived experience is the most important part of being a certified recovery career specialist, because it allows the individual who has the certification to convey helpful information to others and really connect with that person going through the hard time, the confusing time the navigating the system of care, getting, giving suggestions on what It would be possible ways for them to achieve their goals.

HR: 

So again, it’s an example a good example of peer groups helping out others. Tell us about some of the events that you have.

NS: 

Sure. So 9Muses we promote the artwork as much as we can, and individuals that choose to participate in that. Like I said, if somebody comes in, and they just want to make art for themselves, that is 100%. Okay, it’s not expected for an individual to participate in any any of the shows or put their artwork up for sale. But if somebody chooses to, we try to do a solo exhibit every month. So a particular artists will, through attending the classes, they will, they will create a body of work and conceptualize it, hopefully, if we’re doing our job and teaching them about how to, you know, be an artist. And then they get an opening. So we frame we have a frame shop and 9Muses Art Center, which does accept outside jobs. So people from the community do come in to have things framed, but it’s it also benefits our membership in that we can frame their exhibits and hang them on the wall. But we have an opening, and everybody gets fed. And we get to interview the artists that that time and ask them questions and have them read their artists statement and talk about their work in a in a light critique, and enjoy community that way, those exhibits also go out to other places. We have a running exhibit at South Florida State Hospital in there and Anita Godfrey conference room that gets switched out every three months. And we exhibit other places as well hanging artwork on a regular basis. One of them is Seagull trial. In Miami, we have artwork adorning their halls. And it’s a, we call it the plant project. Because it’s similar to an office that rents fake plants, you know, to like make their office look professional. So we sort of do the same thing. It’s a very small, tiny fee, just to sort of pay for our gas to get out there and hang the show and switch it out every six months. And the opportunity for sale is available to our artists. So another benefit of being a member and creating art with us is that the artist always gets the price that they want. And there are classes that help an artist to price their work. To sort of convey that information and talk about how it how it works, you know, in the business of art, and so they always get their asking price. And we just tack on sort of the framing costs if an individual purchases the frame, the frame to piece of artwork so that we just get our money back and the artist gets the money and they get their Yeah, they get what they get their asking price.

HR: 

Can you give us some just a couple of success stories from the 9Muses Art Center?

NS: 

Our current solo exhibit is a man named skip. And he this is his fifth exhibit with us. He’s been a member for 10 years. And as he would put it, when he walked into 9Muses, he couldn’t even draw a circle. And he originally came to us for the support groups and the wellness activities, but took all the art classes sort of one by one and found something that he liked and kind of grew from there. And now you can’t get him to stop painting. We try. He loves it and he’s very thankful for us giving him this outlet. His most recent show is slightly sculptural in the sense that he’s using a medium that is can be made three dimensional painted a collection of flowers. They’re very pretty. We just had that open.

HR: 

Tell us about a few of your other pieces at 9Muses Art Center.

NS: 

Oh well. It might be easier if I tell you about the different classes that we have

HR: 

Great.

NS: 

So our lineup of mediums that are taught by our art instructor Ari. He teaches acrylic painting, watercolor, oil and chalk, pastel drawing, mixed media and printmaking. I still teach the clay classes and our, our performing arts. We have an acting class, we have music classes, a really nice thing that we do. We don’t, we don’t have volunteers in our building. Not really, for any particular reason be the opportunity that we give for volunteering is to our members. So our calendar of art class offerings could could vary from month to month because we have a nice program called the visiting artists theory, and a member that has an idea of something that they would like to give back and teach the membership. They can become a Mentoring Muse after participation with us for a little while. And we’ve had different classes like miniatures and acrylic papermaking they get very specific, but regularly on our calendar. We have printmaking, Clay, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, both chalk and oil. Drawing, life and drawing. Drawing is broken down into a couple of different things. So we have like a beginner’s drawing class, colored pencil class, life drawing class. All of that is available for anyone to see on the website on the calendar page. We try to break them down by day. So Monday is printmaking and mixed media day, and Tuesday’s acrylic day. It’s watercolor Wednesday and drawing Thursday.

HR: 

How can people learn more about the 9Muses Art Center,

NS: 

we have a website a 9Musesartcenter.org. Going there you can read about our history, you can see videos and that the Muses themselves have made and also other organizations and individuals coming in and asking to work with us. We post them there. So that’s a history piece. Our calendar is available, our membership application is available. We do offer a hybrid model. If there’s a gift, another gift that we got from COVID. That is allowing us to sort of broadcast our support groups for individuals that may not live in Broward County and may not be able to be a member, but would like to participate. So you can find that information on the calendar page on our website.

HR: 

Why don’t you talk to our audience about a little bit of the funding of your organization.

NS: 

So we have to we have two funding sources. One of them is Broward County, it’s our Broward County match dollar. And then the other source is through Broward Behavioral Health Coalition, which is the managing entity for Broward County. They are in charge of they are in charge of contracts. for behavioral health and substance use if you were to go on to Broward behavioral health coalition’s website, you would see a myriad of programs that receives funding through VBHC. Many different things. There’s sort of like Community Foundation in a way in a way. Community Foundation has the five pillars we’ve actually received a grant from Community Foundation one year 20 and 2020. It wasn’t as much as we wanted to do because it was COVID Hit that that was our first really big yearly theme that we did, which was our Iris year. And it was about At the end of the year exhibit was 302, which was the diagnostic code for homosexuality prior to it being removed from the DSM. So it was an LGBTQ plus grant. And it was that was that was our year LGBTQ plus inclusion. But we made it work, even though everything was shut down, and we had to do it or so VBHC has funded our drop in center for as long as they’ve been a managing entity, prior to DCF being the managing entity.

HR: 

Tell our audience why is it so important for those of us with mental health challenges, to have peer support?

NS: 

it can be incredibly daunting. And especially feeling like nobody understands. Being able to talk about whatever issue it is that is currently weighing on your mind. Because I’m sure as people know, that have experienced it, they can kind of stack up. And therapy, maybe only once a week, or once a month, if at all. And maybe it’s just finding it hard to talk to your friends and family anymore, because maybe they not in a mean way. But maybe they just don’t know how to help. Exactly. And appear, understands things like that, and has also made all the phone calls and talk to all the people and said all the things, said all the wrong things and then learn what the right things are, and how to get their needs met.

HR: 

Nicole, what got you interested in using art as your pathway to help others?

NS: 

Well, I’ve always been an artist, ever since I could, you know, hold a pencil. So it’s really the only thing that I know how to do very well. And I got this job. In college actually, it was my first quarter of at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. And I went into the career center and open the book that they gave you the three ring binder and the first page said art teacher and I ripped it out. I was like I can do that. And so I made the phone call and got the interview and worked there. And I’ve been working there ever since in some capacity. I’ve had several different titles. I’ve been an art teacher there the longest. But adult services is comprised of other programming. And all of it is peer oriented. For example, our SETH Line is a warm line that’s operated in the evenings between six to 10pm. Where a listener a friendly ear appear, is available to just talk to anybody who calls them that is not location based, anybody can in call.

HR: 

Want to repeat that?

NS: 

SETH Line.

HR: 

Is it listed on the website?

NS: 

It is. 954-578-5640 — I think I’m right. I’m pretty sure I’m right. And so I’ve been I’ve been a manager on the south line. I’ve been the studio manager. So…

HR: 

Can you tell us a little bit more about Mental Health America of Southeast Florida, of which 9Muses is a program?

NS: 

Mental Health America Southeast Florida is a National Mental Health Association affiliate. So if you were to look, look us up. You know via that organization, we would be listed in Broward County and MHA/FISP. We call it a few years ago we took on another agency Florida initiative for suicide prevention we sort of joined forces together. So, the full acronym is a real Zinger, you know, MHASEFL/FISP. But MHA started out as an information and referral agency. One of the adults services contracts is our Broward connections book. We used to print them. The last time we printed them was 2019. But we do maintain the resource guide online. So it’s Broward connections.org. And we list as many nonprofit behavioral health services as we possibly can. That list is vetted. If there is ever we try to maintain it as best we can people change phone numbers and addresses all the time. But right on the homepage, there is a place to inquire, you know, a contact form. So if a number is wrong, and somebody finds something, we’re very open to receiving that information and looking into it. If there’s an agency that is funded by one of, you know, one of our funders, our whole organization is funded by many different different funding structures. Because different programs are run by different different different contracts. But we kind of vet programs through our the funders that we that are available in our in our county, and we’re happy to add through that form as well. But it is a it’s a pretty useful resource guide. Mental Health America. We have parent education, parents support, have children’s programming. We have a loss team, which is local outreach to suicide survivor. And I do believe that we are the only official loss team in the state of Florida. We have a heal team. Deal with hope. And they primarily service or they service I should say, Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach. Oh, it’s families. And it’s a a trauma based grant.

HR: 

Now can you access that directly through your main website, you have to go directly to the other?

NS: 

MHASEFL.org. You can see all of those programs, there is a drop down, that will take you to each of the different each of the different pages for the one I just mentioned. And you can see the different programs underneath those, those umbrella. All of our services are free. I believe the only fee for service that we currently have is anger management, under parent education, parents support. But that is there, there’s also a subsidized subsidizing available through a certain Avenue. And we are very available. So our our phone numbers are out there. Our email addresses are out there. We we encourage people to reach out and if they have any questions and contact us, either through our website or directly. My staff at 9Muses Our email addresses are listed on the 9Musesartcenter.org website that you can contact all of us.

HR: 

Great. What distinguishes your art classes from other art class?

NS: 

So if we’re talking about and an art center, that is kind of a fee for service thing. Individuals are going there to sort of learn a specific skill and they’re starting from one spot and you know supposed to end up at another spot. We sort of take the pressure even off of that. We we try to avoid people feeling like they’re wasting anything. I don’t want to use this canvas because it costs money and I’m not going to do anything and all of that is not important. It’s not important to us at all. We are there to utilize the supplies. You can use them. We meet you where you’re at. So whatever a person’s skill level, or art instructor is More than happy to give you a, you can participate in a full lesson. You know, during the class time or if you are coming in late or something, and you want to work on your and you’re working on your acrylic painting. She’s also available for one on one instruction, we have a critique and explore class, where you would bring your artwork to sort of get a critique from the art instructor, but more importantly, the group of peers that is attending the class. And we can all learn something from looking through other people’s eyes at our artwork. That’s not necessarily different from other art centers or our classes. But I think that the option may be the the difference, I think that the community may be the difference. I think that the sense of acceptance may also.

HR: 

And the overall approach, just like Different Brains that every brain is unique, and every individual is unique. So you don’t have one size fits all.

NS: 

Right, right. Yeah, for sure. For sure. We really like to allow individuals to be able to feel that they are gaining something from the classes. And to not feel stressed out about attending the classes like like it’s fourth grade, because it’s not nobody is going to critique your artwork if you if that isn’t your goal. Most of our Adult Services Program, utilize WRAP, which is Wellness Recovery Action Plan, or some aspect of it if it’s not directly working a WRAP plan, there are little tidbits sort of taken out of it. And one of the main ones is a goal, strength and needs. So an individual gets to say what their goal is, what they would like to get out of it, even if it’s just the art class, what their strength is, relating to that goal, and what their need is relating to that goal. And that way we can work towards that.

HR: 

Well, Nicole Storrs, you’ve really, really covered so much ground and given us the big picture of the 9Muses Art Center, a drop in center that does so much for those of us with mental health issues and other issues. And we hope you’ll come back soon. Thank you so much for being here today at Different Brains.

NS: 

You’re very welcome. Appreciate you.

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