Heart and Hustle: Visionary Healers, Movers, and Shakers

with host Paulette Rees-Denis, Episode #136

and guests art curator, Myken Pullins and

artists in recovery, Rebecca Gonzalez Bartoli and Kristin Morris

from the Fresh A.I.R Gallery in Columbus, Ohio

January 2022

Happy Friday my friend!

Today we are talking about changing the stigma of mental illness and how making art is life changing! Whoa…

I bring you Myken Pullins, who happens to be my fabulous niece, who works with artists in recovery, through the health care system in Columbus. This amazing woman helps artists who suffer from mentall illness, addiction, and more to create a better life. Through art!

These folks have been able to heal through making art, and are recognized in the art world, and have been able to show their art, to sell their art, and perhaps make a living with their art, and change the stigma of having a mental illness. Life changing. 

Myken runs a gallery call Fresh A.I.R. and gives the artists sometimes residency  in their art studio, plus they participate in the open art walks that happen monthly. This is where I first met them, saw their art, purchased a piece for myself, and saw what a great studio and artist happening this event was! And I got to hear a bit of their story, about how art has saved them. Which is why I wanted to bring them to you today.


Just awesome, and I thank them for sharing their stories, being vulnerable to being on camera and telling you a little bit about themselves. 

View on YouTube here

Enjoy our conversations with Myken, and Rebecca and Kristen. And let me know what you think.

Myken Pullins

You can view and listen on YouTube, here

And if you are driving, you can listen in on SoundCloud, here!

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Here are some of their art pieces and the gallery…


More about Myken:

Myken Pullins has worked at Fresh A.I.R. Gallery (Artists in Recovery), a project of Southeast Healthcare for the past 16 years. She has worked with hundreds of artists in all different stages of recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders and strongly believes that art plays an important role in their recovery towards healing. Coming from a family of artists, working in communications and finding collaborations for the arts and mental health has been a passion and priority of hers.


More about Rebecca:

“Keep the rage tender” is my favorite line from the poem Therapy by Nayyirah Waheed. It reminds me that despite all I’ve been through, my life can be tender and fulfilling.

I began struggling with mental illness when I was seven years old. I was diagnosed with OCD, which developed into severe depression by my teenage years. I self-harmed and had an eating disorder. When I was in the fourth grade, I had an art teacher who took special interest in me; I remember this well because it was then that I decided I wanted to become an artist. In high school I had another teacher, Tosca Villano, who guided me and supported my art like no other. I would have dropped out had it not been for her art classes. When I was 19, I began life in Philadelphia at my dream art school. Shortly before then, I had stopped taking my antipsychotic medication due to its intense side effects. It was a few months after the semester started when things took a turn for the worse, and I had an episode of psychosis that lasted several months. I was asked to leave school and I returned home in crisis. I was hospitalized and at 20 years old was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

This was an unbelievable moment for me. I was devastated, though relieved to finally have a name for what I’d been experiencing. The next few years were very difficult, including my traumatic time in the mental health system. One of the constants that stayed with me through everything was art. Art has been and always will be an integral part of me. It’s like breathing: I am not complete without it. Creating art is therapeutic for me, and when I am in the moment of making something, the world is quiet. I find peace. I desperately needed this peace throughout my twenties.

Through hard work and determination, I have now been in recovery for 10 years. Being an artist in recovery is a very important identity for me. I hope to share my recovery journey and how art has helped me become who I am today with others who may be struggling. These days, I like to live slowly and softly. I enjoy small things like taking pictures of flowers and traveling to the Fresh A.I.R. art studio. Everything I do brings me some joy, no matter how small. I appreciate the fact that I can get out of bed each morning, that I can eat, and that I can take my pills. Being kind to myself works hand-in-hand with these things, and I have to remember that I am living in the way that makes me happy.

I fight every day for my recovery, and not every day is easy. I live with chronic exhaustion and residual pain from trauma, and I still experience bouts of severe depression. I am still learning and growing as a person, and as an artist. My art is an expression of my mental health and the journey I’ve been on is evident in the progression of my creations. The best thing about being


More about Kristin:

Kristin Morris is a sculptor who graduated from the College Of Wooster with a degree in studio art and later attended the Columbus College of Art and Design. She also received a Master’s degree in social work from the Ohio State University, but now enjoys a career doing what she loves most: art! 

Kristin is affected by Bipolar Disorder and OCD, and had her first solo gallery show while she was a patient at a long-term psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts. By allowing herself to become immersed in the minute details of sculpting and painting, she uses art as an escape from anxiety and depression. Kristin finds that she is able to express herself best through her art, which is constantly evolving. She does not want to be defined by her illness; rather, she wants to be recognized for her artwork.

Kristin has an active imagination and loves to create her own imaginary characters, all of which reflect her colorful sense of humor. When she sells her work, people often ask her: “What kind of dreams do you have?” and “What type of drugs are you on?” If only they knew.

Kristin derives much of her artistic inspiration from nature and often incorporates found objects into her work. She loves how it feels to hold clay in her hands and shape it into various forms. She recently started experimenting with underglazes and various painting techniques. By The Sea represents some of the happiest and most memorable times in Kristin’s life: the summers that she spent snorkeling in the Bahamas while her father taught marine biology/geology courses in the area.


So my friend, let me know how this touched you! Thank you for listening to this journey of meeting and networking with other creatives…