NikkiFour years ago, Craft Cottage Coordinator Nikki Sullivan was working at a fashion PR firm, and she was annoyed. She had just sat in a meeting where her coworkers were stressing out over only having $5,000 to spend on a brunch for influencers at Tiffany Jewelers.

She returned to her desk, looked out over Michigan Ave., and saw a homeless family on the street. Immediately, she knew things needed change.

“It just really upset me that I wasn’t doing anything meaningful,” she said.

She began looking for jobs in art, and the opening at Mercy Home popped up. Within several weeks, the job was hers.

Nikki attended Franklin College in Indiana for her undergraduate degree in art history. After graduating, she spent a year teaching art classes, setting up art shows, and taking classes before attending the University of Illinois, where she received her master’s degree in art education. She then began the Ph.D. program, where she continued to teach art education and writing before deciding that she wanted to pursue a career outside of academia. It was soon after that she left her job at the PR firm and came to Mercy Home.

“Some of my worst days have been made better by being at Mercy Home working with our youth.”

Nikki’s job is multifaceted—one she describes as very different from other jobs at Mercy Home.

“I feel like a unicorn at Mercy Home because everyone else has their department and I’m like a one-woman department,” she said.

A big part of Nikki’s job is working with the young women at Mercy Home, meeting with each of the four homes at the Walsh Campus weekly. She also does sessions in smaller groups of two to four girls, as well as individual sessions. The smaller sessions often take place when a group of girls work well together or are all interested in learning about a specific medium. The individual sessions, however, take on a bit of a different purpose.

“One is we see that that particular youth really benefits from the therapeutic dimension of art, so we create a plan that is specifically tailored to their treatment needs and we work through those via the art making process,” she explained. “Or it could be this youth really needs a time out from the trauma in their lives or their triggers and they might find comfort in just retreating to a space of art-making.”

During these therapeutic sessions, they may not talk about the specific issues, Nikki said, but use the time as a buffer for them to perhaps just feel better for a little while.

“So even if we might not be talking directly about what’s going on, they’re still benefiting from that hour and getting a reset button,” Nikki said. “And learning to feel proud of what they’re making and feel about having the ability to control a medium and create an outcome, so there’s a sense of agency in art-making even though we might say, this hour is art therapy, this hour is still therapeutic.”

“I am and forever will be big on just dialogue and on the connections that were made with you and that piece, you and your feelings, you and the people around you during that time.”

In addition to working with the kids at Mercy Home, Nikki also works on special projects, such as creating decorations for events, putting together art shows of the girls’ work, working at fundraising events, collaborating with places in the community like the Beverly Area Planning Association, and helping out on AfterCare retreats and for events with Friends First.

But the best part of Nikki’s job is easily her time with the kids here, she said.

“They give me the most challenges in my day-to-day, but I don’t see that as a negative, I don’t run from that, because they are also the best part of my day,” she said.

“There have been a lot of times where our job is to help them and facilitate them and work with them, but there have been so many times where they helped me and I don’t think that they know that,” she said. “Some of my worst days have been made better by being at Mercy Home working with our youth.”

And, unlike many artists, she also doesn’t care as much about a project’s end result as she does about the process of making it.

“What did you feel while you were making it, what kind of conversations were had as you were making it [is what’s important],” she said. “I am and forever will be big on just dialogue and on the connections that were made with you and that piece, you and your feelings, you and the people around you during that time.”

0 replies

Comments

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

0 replies

Comments

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *