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Debbie Watson, left, Julia Turpin and Nora McGonigle pose for a portrait at Nuci’s Space in Athens, Georgia on Friday, February 16, 2018. (Photo/Emily Haney, emilyhaney.com)

Spring Into the Arts, a Performing Arts Medicine Showcase, is a performing arts and health awareness event hosted by music business students Julia Turpin and Nora McGonigle. The event, occuring on Sunday March 4, will feature performances by local Athens artists and addresses by keynote speakers Bronkar Lee and Peter Alvanos.

The event is free and runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Nuçi’s Space. Mama’s Boy will also be providing breakfast at the event free to all attendees.

Julia Turpin, a junior from Asheville, NC, and Nora McGonigle, a senior from Acworth, are running this event as their microcosm project for their music business class. Turpin originally had the idea for the event after attending a London networking conference on dance science, her program of study in her interdisciplinary studies major. Through this, Turpin later connected to the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA), with which, in addition to Nuçi’s Space, the event is partnered.

Nuçi’s Space is a nonprofit and health and resource center for musicians. The Nuçi Phillips Memorial Foundation was founded in 1999 in memory of 22-year-old Nuçi who committed suicide in 1996 after battling with depression, according to the Nuci's Space website.

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Nuci's Space fish holding a cookout and auction to celebrate Drive-B-Truckers homecoming. (Photo/Emily Haney, emilyhaney.com)

Nuçi’s Space itself was opened in Athens in 2000 as a safe and supportive place for musicians, particularly for those struggling with their mental health.

McGonigle said that her goal of the event is to expose artists in Athens to the resources Nuçi’s Space offers.

“A lot of people probably don’t even know that Nuçi’s Space exists, and so if we could just raise awareness and bring other people here for help,” McGonigle said.

Turpin hopes to foster the community and support that Athens, and in particular Nuçi’s Space, offers.

“I am content if at least one artist or business walks out of this event feeling like they have support, feeling like they have found somewhere in Athens that they can go to, and maybe feeling a little less like the pressure of the career they have chosen is there,” Turpin said.

The lineup currently features 17 different artists set to perform. Because it is a showcase, each artist is allotted just a short length of time to perform, but the event offers a variety of genres ranging from country to hip-hop for the audience to enjoy.

One goal of Turpin and McGonigle was to support as many artists as possible by having a large lineup, and it worked out that everyone who submitted and confirmed was able to perform at the event. The performances will begin at 12:30 p.m.

The two keynote speakers at the event are Bronkar Lee and Peter Alvanos. Alvanos is an Athens-based musician and, in addition to his project Fabulous Bird, is a member of Elf Power, part of the Elephant Six Collective.

Alvanos said he was given the confidence to release his own work as Fabulous Bird after playing with The Sunshine Fix on tour as a lead guitarist – an area out of his comfort zone as a drummer. The project is named after a painting by his great uncle who was a successful painter in the '50s and '60s in the Boston area.

“It was really beautiful and mystical and mysterious and had these beautiful colors and on the back of it it said Fabulous Bird 1962, and so I had to go with that name. He is someone that I’ve never met but he’s been a big inspiration – kind of gave me the green flag that it’s okay to be an artist,” Alvanos said.

Alvanos is also a mentor at Camp Amped – a music summer day camp and afterschool camp for middle school and high school students. The camp combines mentorship in musical and mental health.

Debbie Watson is the Development and Youth Programs Coordinator at Nuçi’s Space and described the camp as a mental health resource for kids and teens.

“Camp Amped – it was an outreach program to begin with, just to start younger. You might have these same issues as you’re getting older in your early 20s and mid-20s, but if you can learn some coping skills when you’re 12 and 13, 15, 18, then the chances of those becoming problems later on in your life, you know, they just reduce so much,” Watson said.

The campers can then share this mental health education with friends.

For Alvanos, Camp Amped is an opportunity to use his experience in the music industry to guide young people who may wish to pursue a career in music.

“I am giving them, through my eyes, what it’s like to be in a band,” Alvanos said.

Camp Amped is a way to give life lessons through teaching about the music industry.

“I just like giving back. I want to help and support other people; I want to coach,” Alvanos said.

Alvanos plans to discuss his career as a musician during his keynote speech. Beginning as a drummer relatively late in life compared to other artists, Alvanos will bring insights from his alternative path as well as about maintaining a balanced and healthy life as a musician.

“I think my story will be enlightening and will give people hope because the path that I took, it wasn’t a straight path. They were so many things that were nodding and pointing me to take this route, and I didn’t so many times, but I finally did and I’m grateful that I’m here now to talk about it,” Alvanos said.

Alvanos said he is involved in the work of Nuçi’s Space and this event because of how vital Nuçi’s Space is to the Athens music community, and he hopes that something he says will prove valuable to the attendees.

“If I can help one person out, that’s better than receiving an award,” Alvanos said.

Spring Into the Arts is an event meant to connect artists with mental health resources, but also provides an opportunity to network and engage the Athens performing arts community.

“I would say come to this event to feel inspired, to feel supported, to get connected, and to learn what you have for you in the community,” Turpin said.

Spring Into the Arts runs 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. at Nuçi’s Space on March 4. While the event is free, donations to support Nuçi’s Space and the resources it provides are encouraged.

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