The What it’s Like Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to removing the stigma of mental illness through art, education and community engagement.


Awareness, activism, empowerment, healing, unification and creativity. Humans find value through self-expression and expressive art story-telling. The unspoken is communicated through these forms of self-expression. A linkage is created between the observer and the artist. Our unification and understanding help connect individuals who live with mental illness to peers and to the overall community.


In early 2016, Nikki Hune attempted suicide. After the attempt, she sought mental health treatment. With little relief from perpetual thoughts of suicide, she made the choice to fully engage with these thoughts rather than avoiding them. As an artist and musician, she also began seeking abstract freedom through her own artistic expression. After experiencing a novel form of relief from suicidal thoughts, she began encouraging artistic expression for those with mental illness in the community at large.

Nikki sought to create an avenue to engage society in the experience of “what it’s like” to experience suicidal ideation; to have survived a suicide attempt; and, to have lost a loved one to suicide. She teamed up with Cailey Baker and Andrew Robinson who had similar experiences to begin the groundwork. In addition to Cailey and Andrew, she recruited Jeff Thompson, Misty Cooper, Jackie Hune, and Edward Odom to comprise the founding team of the What it’s Like Project. After the overwhelming success of the first two events, EXPOSIS and VOXIS, Katy Manning, Justin Anderson and Jose Cortes joined the team to expand the possibilities for What it’s Like Project.


Research has found that expressive art provides individuals the “opportunity to become active participants in their own treatment and empower them to use imagination in productive and corrective ways. Whether through art, play, music, movement, enactment, or creative writing, expressive therapies stimulate the senses, thereby ‘sensitizing’ individuals to untapped aspects of themselves (Gladding, 1992) and thus facilitating self-discovery change, and reparation (Malchiodi, 2005).” Given these results, developing What it’s Like Project fosters an essential role in the lives of many individuals encountering mental health difficulties. Our organization holds the space for continuous artistic projects to develop and flourish, maintaining a supportive space for individuals.


Gladding, S. (1992). Counseling as an art: The creative arts in counseling. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Malchiodi, C. A. (2005). Expressive therapies: History, theory, and practice. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.