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The Opioid Project: Changing Perceptions Through Art and Storytelling







Engaging, Educating and Activating communities about the costs of the epidemic while supporting those personally touched by the crisis

Community-based Workshops and Art Exhibitions led by Annie Brewster and Nancy Marks

‘I was surprised how good it felt to find other siblings (in the workshop) going through similar experiences. I had never met others my own age who lost a brother to overdose before this.’ Olivia


‘What motivated me to come? The opportunity to try something new,

to create a piece of art in honor of my son and to help fight stigma of addiction.’ Maureen


‘Even just preparing for the artwork was unexpectedly healing. It allowed me the

time, space and purpose to see my son more clearly.’ Judy


With over 2000 deaths in 2016, Massachusetts has the sixth highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the country, and the number is continuing to rise. Using art and audio storytelling as its foundation, The Opioid Project: Changing Perceptions through Art and Storytelling (The Opioid Project) is a response to this escalating epidemic. The Opioid Project is a collaboration between storytelling expert and physician Annie Brewster and visual artist Nancy Marks.


The Opioid Project seeks to change the way society views addiction and the addict, as well as how people see and treat those grieving the death of a loved one to overdose. Assumptions about addicts and their families are central to the stigma and loneliness experienced by all those affected by the epidemic.  The Opioid Project communicates and breathes life into the complex social narrative of addiction.

The Opioid Project consists of 4-hour art and audio storytelling workshops where participants find a safe space to process their personal experiences with addiction by creating collages and sharing stories. These stories are audio recorded, and together with the art, contextualize and bring to life the human costs of the epidemic. Finished work is hung in a community multimedia art exhibition where each art collage is paired with its recorded audio story. Using their phone, visitors have the opportunity to hear each participant speak about their experience while visually taking in the art in front of them. Each event includes a community dialogue with the goal of increasing public understanding about stigma and supporting advocacy efforts around addiction. Exposure to the art and messaging cannot be overstated: beautiful visuals make people take notice and the voices make the stories come alive, creating a unique educational experience.  

Examples of the pairing of art/audio: go to theopioidproject

       By Carol in honor of her son, Will                           By Charlie about his addiction                             Angela, in honor of her brother, Jonathan


The Opioid Project works closely with local partners to organize these workshops and then to host art exhibitions and community conversations. At the exhibition, each piece is paired with an audio clip enabling the public to hear the voices of participants talking about their art, their loved ones and the epidemic. Each event includes a community dialogue, with the goal of increasing public understanding and supporting our local partners in their search for additional resources to address addiction. In this way, The Opioid Project communicates and breathes life into the complex social narrative of addiction. For more: Deborah Becker, Turning Grief into Art after Losing a Loved one to Opioid Overdose, 90.9 WBUR 

            Become a Local partner and bring The Opioid Project to your Community!  


Co-creators' Marks and Brewster are currently identifying local partners and resources in order to provide workshops in communities throughout Massachusetts. In response to growing interest in the project, they have adapted their workshop model to also work with groups of survivors of opioid overdose and/or addicts in recovery, first responders, and staff/medical personnel working in substance abuse recovery.  


Contact Nancy Marks at or Annie Brewster


'Our vision is to stretch boundaries and show that art and audio storytelling created from loss can be used to not only heal the individual but as an important educational tool. Public health messages, which often fall on deaf ears, can extend their reach because of The Project’s creative approach.'



~Annie Brewster and Nancy Marks



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