Olivia Moore (she/her), AIR’s Mental Health Support Person from Seacoast Mental Health Center, shares about her role at programs, her favorite AIR memories, and more in this interview.
What is your role at Arts In Reach?
I am what’s known as the Mental Health Support Person. What I understand is that AIR reached out to Seacoast Mental Health wanting to have a Mental Health Support Person at each program. That’s because AIR is awesome, trauma-informed, and wanted to make sure that they had mental health support at every program. At Seacoast Mental Health I’m a Case Manager and something called a RENEW Facilitator, which means I do a lot of life skills kind of work. Before that, I was a teacher and worked in an alternative education program.
I technically encountered Arts In Reach while I was working as an alternative education teacher back in the day. Our school Social Worker, who worked with a lot of my students, brought AIR in for our program and I met Cara. And then, ironically, at Seacoast Mental Health they were just like, “This person is available” and it turned out to be me. And I was like, “Oh! I know you guys.”
What do you do at AIR programs as the Mental Health Support Person?
It feels very similar to what I used to do in alternative education. It’s a lot of being available to help students or program participants regulate themselves if they are overwhelmed or they’re stressed. A lot of that can just be talking. Sometimes just talking through something really helps someone feel more comfortable and safe in a new environment or if they’ve had a hard day. I’m there, able to step aside and really give people that time to talk and feel more comfortable and safe.
How are AIR programs different from other youth programs that you’ve been a part of?
Honestly, I think it feels very familiar to me because it’s similar to the program I worked at before. It’s very student-driven, and it’s all about having fun, and getting to know each other, and being goofy. It’s not so much like, “This is what we’re going to do. Sit down. Do this.” I think that trauma-informed element is part of it too. There’s a lot of measures that are taken to make sure people feel comfortable, like the orientations you do before students come to the program. It’s a very fun, truly creative, and inclusive environment.
Do you have a background in the arts?
I’ve always loved making art. Sculpting and painting. When I was younger- but not as much now- a lot of music. I’m in an acapella group and I sing my own little sad songs. I play guitar and piano, and I use a lot of songwriting to channel emotions. I very much believe that art and creating is a great way to process emotions. Things that are difficult or overwhelming, I often use art to deal with or process or make something out of it.
How has working with AIR impacted your own creative practice?
It’s a reminder that it doesn’t matter how good you are at something. You can always create new things and try new art forms. A lot of my time at AIR has been doing new art forms, like circular weaving or making frames. Also, seeing the amazing creativity of the teens is very inspiring to me and makes me want to create more.
Do you have a favorite Arts In Reach memory?
That’s a good question. I definitely think there was one time in the summer when we were in Portsmouth at the beautiful, historical Players’ Ring. We were outside doing that circle game, and we were passing balls in the game. People started passing random objects like shoes and name tags. Everyone started giggling, and then hysterically laughing, and it was a beautiful moment of joy. Now I look back, there was creativity in that moment. The game was one thing, and because all these people are creative, they made it a new thing.
Also, the fashion show! Seeing it at the end of the fashion program was the most beautiful thing. It brought tears to my eyes. The mall is kind of a dying place in America. If you want to get into it, malls are consumerism and an endless cycle of purchasing and letting go. To see people creating clothes that they made themselves and repurposed from things, and then going to the mall for a fashion show, is very inspiring. And people stopped in the mall to be like “What’s happening here?” They’re drawn into the community. I love how AIR takes it to a community level at the end. It’s really special. I’m a fangirl. 100%.
Do you have any advice that you would give to teens?
Try new things. You can go to something and not say a word. You can go to an AIR program, and just being in the presence of people can be a rewarding experience if you are afraid to be social. Or if being social feels exhausting, AIR is a place where you can be around people and not have to put yourself out there too much. I guarantee you probably will put yourself out there, but you don’t have to. You can just show up. It’s a very low stakes, high reward thing. And there’s free transportation, which is fantastic.
Do you have any final thoughts to share with our readers?
The AIR staff are amazing. I’ve never seen staff so committed to the mission of an organization. Consistently committed. All of you have an enthusiasm for art and for all of the participants, and that’s rare. Sometimes it’s more about the art or more about the relationships, but I love your format of teaching artists. I think everyone’s roles really work well together to make that happen.