Project Overview


The Opioid Project: Changing Perceptions Through Art and Storytelling


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 physician and Health Story Collaborative founder Annie Brewster and visual artist Nancy Marks.

Through community-based partnerships, The Opioid Project seeks to increase public awareness and to change how people perceive of and treat those touched by addiction, including active users, those in recovery, first responders and those grieving the death of a loved one to overdose. Assumptions about substance users and their families are central to the stigma and loneliness experienced by all those affected by the epidemic. Using art and personal stories, The Opioid Project communicates and breathes life into the complex social narrative of addiction and co-occurring mental health challenges, with the goal of promoting positive social change and ultimately preventing substance abuse and opioid-related deaths.

The Opioid Project consists of 4-hour art and audio storytelling workshops where participants find a safe space to process their personal experiences through 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 community multimedia art exhibitions where each art collage is paired with its recorded audio story. Using personal phones, 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 and access to mental health services. 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 and impactful experience. 

Bring The Opioid Project to your Community!

Marks and Brewster are currently identifying local partners in order to provide workshops and exhibitions in communities throughout Massachusetts.

Partners include: City of Boston Office of Recovery Services, City of Medford Mayor’s Office, McLean Hospital Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program, SOAR in Natick and The New Art Center in Newton

Two offerings:

The Opioid Project’s Workshop Package includes:


- 4-hour community-based art and audio-recording workshop for 10 participants

- A traveling opioid prevention and mental health education art and audio show to combat stigma and reach hundreds of people. This art and audio exhibition “in a box”, can be hung in schools, hospitals, town halls, colleges, local businesses, community institutions, etc. Art is ready to hang, has labels, and audio is matched to each piece.

Or The Opioid Project Community Exhibition

As an additional option, The Opioid Project will bring its own traveling multi-media exhibition into your community and work with you on programming to encourage dialogue.

Sample Press/Publications

Note: Press and Publications of The Opioid Project also occurred under its former name, The Intimacy of Memory Art and Storytelling Project: Reframing Loss and Overcoming Stigma in the Face of Opioid Overdose, including

Deborah Becker, Turning Grief into Art after Losing a Loved one to Opioid Overdose, 90.9 WBUR


Harvard University’s HarvardX: HHP100: The Opioid Crisis in America Intimacy of Memory