As my summer with Poverty and the Arts comes to a close, I can’t help but think about how fast it has went by! At my college, I am a part of a service scholar program that requires me to complete two summers of service before I graduate. When thinking about where I wanted to serve, I knew I wanted to come home to Nashville, and I knew I wanted to do something in the arts realm. Most of my service background is in early childhood literacy, which I do have a strong passion for, but I wanted to try something different. Because I do enjoy making art as a hobby, and like to be around creative energy, I thought that it would be a nice change of pace from what I’m used to.
Most of my tasks have fallen under the umbrella of marketing. Over the course of the summer, my responsibilities have included planning and posting engaging content for social media, writing newsletters, and working with Nicole to come up with creative ways to increase art sales. Although I’ve never done anything in the marketing realm before, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how I have enjoyed bending my brain to think in that way. I was constantly asking myself questions like “how do we not only get people interested in what we are doing, but connect with them through their screen?”. It was energizing to try and come up with answers to those questions, and to feed my creative side in a new way.
However, one of the most rewarding things I’ve done at POVA is getting to know all of the artists in the collective. It has completely transformed my view on not only homelessness, but also people in general.
Before working at POVA, I would’ve considered myself an advocate for the homeless community. I currently write for Memphis’s own version of The Contributor, The Bridge Street Paper, and I regularly volunteered at soup kitchens in high school.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that homelessness can mean a plethora of things, and can affect people from all walks of life. All it takes is a stroke of bad luck and a missed rent payment, and you’re “homeless”. All of the stereotypes that our society has associated with homelessness (lazy, criminal, drug addict) are cast upon a person overnight, and just like that, everything else about them gets overtaken.
I’ve also been surprised at how easily I’ve been able to identify with the artists. Upon first working at POVA, I was worried I’d say or do the wrong thing, or that I wouldn’t possibly be able to connect with the artists, because I could never understand what they’ve been through. While the latter is true, it hasn’t stopped me from being able to connect with each and every artist in a different way, and learn something special from each of them. Every person that’s a part of the collective is positive, resilient, and full of gratitude, and we’ve had more in common than I could’ve ever imagined. Whether it’s laughing about our family dysfunction, or gushing about musical interests, or giving creative advice--as the days go on, I feel more and more like I’m talking with friends.
I guess when it comes down to it, my experiences at POVA have taught me that at the end of the day, people are people, and we’re going through more of the same things than meets the eye. Through this idea, I’ve learned that it’s okay if I haven’t shared the same experiences with someone, and I should recognize and accept our differences. However, it doesn’t mean that I should be afraid of approaching or interacting with them--because one of the best ways we can grow is by making connections with people who we wouldn’t typically cross paths with in our personal or professional lives, even if it’s intimidating or uncomfortable.