Non-profit advocate works to help Athens musicians

Lesley Cobbs works as a suicide awareness advocate for her community and fellow neighbors, inside the record adorned walls of Athens’ nonprofit music resource center, Nuci’s Space.

Cobbs pushes back her dreads contained by a bandanna as she starts up the espresso machine behind the coffee bar in Nuci’s Space. Her relaxed appearance matches her collected attitude as she simultaneously makes a coffee, answers the phone and replies to a colleague dressed down in casual clothes. Her British accent is evident when she says, “right on.”

Cobbs’ love of music fits perfectly in the eclectic college town of Athens. Her position as Volunteer Coordinator at Nuci’s Space aligns her with the musicians who live in Athens and struggle with depression. Her marketing experience in previous jobs allows her to plan fundraising for Nuci’s Space and establish ties in the community for volunteers. Cobbs works to recruit volunteers to provide the services Nuci’s offers to those who are in need of assistance.

“We’re like a complete package, if a musician needs therapy then we try to make that accessible, we try to remove all the boundaries,” said Cobbs.

Cobbs unlocks all of the practice rooms located in the hallway past the elevated stage, as the morning transitions into afternoon.

“When they’re not actually in therapy, they need a place to play music, they’re musicians,” said Cobbs.

Cobbs walks past the stage, which is covered with speakers and instruments. She points to the adjacent wall filled with records. Each record is labeled with the name of a donor that sponsors Nuci’s Space. Among business owners are several band names inscribed on records. Athens’ staples like Drive By Truckers, R.E.M and Widespread Panic all share space on this retro and symbolic décor.

Cobbs appreciates good local music and harnesses this passion to attract community involvement in events and fundraisers hosted by Nuci’s Space.

“Because of the events that we do, if you ask anyone in town, they know Nuci’s Space,” said Cobbs.

Cobbs puts the finishing touches on the annual fundraiser, Athens Business Rocks, every February. Businesses in Athens assemble a band with their staff team and compete in a battle of the bands style competition.

“We have people volunteer within the community that just want to give something back,” said Cobbs.

Drive By Truckers is an Athens band that echoes Cobbs’ appreciation for struggling artists by performing an annual benefit concert for Nuci’s Space. This year the Drive-By Truckers performed Jan. 17th-19th. On the last night of Drive-By Truckers’ homecoming show, Nuci’s Space hosted a pre DBT party, selling paraphernalia. All the proceeds went to their fundraising effort.

The fundraising provides the funds necessary to hold therapy and counseling. Musicians can come to Nuci’s for support and encouragement. Nuci’s reflects Cobbs inviting personality by creating a comfortable atmosphere and recluse for musicians.

“We decrease the stigma connected to depression by being completely transparent,” said Cobbs.

Cobbs walks into the room where counseling is conducted and switches on the lights. She names off the bands that make up the framed autographed posters lining the walls corner to corner ending on a bright poster signed by the B-52s.

In the past three years, Will Kiser, the counseling advocate, has seen an increase in the number of musicians seeking counsel, rental space and treatment. The ideal vision for Cobbs and Nuci’s is to expand their services to musicians nationwide. The initial step is to open a Nuci’s Space in Atlanta, according to Cobbs.

Cobbs is a visionary, but also sensitive to the depression some musicians face. Creative artists are listed fifth in the top 10 professions with high rates of depressive illness, according to The Guardian. The article suggests the possibility that a high proportion of people with depressive illnesses are drawn to working in the arts, but goes undiagnosed or untreated. It says some may go untreated because they “worry that getting medical treatment would stifle their creativity or make their output less interesting.”

“This is only my personal opinion, this isn’t anything to do with Nuci’s Space, I believe that people who are artistically creative, often can suffer from depression and mental illness and it’s a part of their artistic temperament,” said Cobbs.

Nuci’s Space specializes with the treatment of musicians, but anyone is welcome. Cobbs accommodates anyone who wants to help, or is seeking help.

“Anyone who comes in is treated exactly the same, whether you are an amazing musician, whether you’re a guy that’s coming in to play the guitar, or a guy coming for therapy, everyone is treated exactly the same,” said Cobbs.