Sarah Hebert stands next to a mixed-media painting, dripping with ribbons and trinkets. Scraps of paper with a child’s handwriting are adhered to the canvas: “Dear Mom, Do you want me to give you something to eat? Love, Sarah.”
“My mother felt she didn’t deserve resources to keep her healthy,” Sarah says of her experience growing up living in cars, motels, and with friends. “It’s really okay to ask.” Sarah’s mother escaped an abusive relationship while pregnant with her daughter, and though they struggled financially, Sarah doesn’t recall her life in poverty as ‘bad.’ If anything, it taught her to be independent and she developed a strong work ethic. That doesn’t mean that it was easy, though.
“Humanity and love and caring of one another really lifted us up and kept us going,” she says.
Family friends opened their home to Sarah after her mother passed, and she was able to enroll at College of the Ozarks. Graduating debt-free because of the college’s no-tuition policy, Sarah is now pursuing a career in the arts and graphic design. She uses pieces of her past to inspire her work. Sarah notes that she’s still one crisis away from being left in poverty, though.
This is a common thread with many women in the Springfield area, particularly single mothers. Janelle Reed, founder of Single Momz Rock, helps create a safe space to talk, as well as planning for the future. “You’re used to being in survival mode when you’re in poverty, “ Janelle says. She works with single mothers to rethink their savings, budgets, and the future.
In addition to teaching practical skills, Janelle recognizes the importance of creativity as a healing process. Through her work as the Outreach and Special Events Manager at The Victory Mission, she established “Expressions of Victory,” a fine arts program for Victory Mission men and women, where they can explore creativity through writing, music, and visual arts.
Joy, a member of Expressions of Victory, started at the program thinking that “nobody would be interested in my work.” Despite her reservations, she found a powerful connection through photography. “I never imagined the impact taking photos could have,” Joy says. “I have worth as a person, without being attached to anyone else.”
Like Sarah, Joy and another artist, Shannon, had pieces of their work on display at The Fairbanks during the Community Concert and Conversations series, held on October 18th. By the end of the night, Joy had sold a photograph of a rose, one that held deep personal significance for her. Purchasing art through Expressions of Victory exhibits supports the Victory Mission and its artists.
“Things are happening,” Janelle says. “Agencies are coming together to create change for the better.”
The Fairbanks, where the conversation was held, is a community center targeted to low-income families, especially those without liveable wages. Amy Blansit of The Drew Lewis Foundation recognizes that poverty is a huge issue in Springfield, and that the community needs to open their eyes and work together to help fix the problem. At The Fairbanks, community members can participate in food banks, community gardens, diaper banks, and financial education through local bank partnerships.
Community members who are interested in learning more about the above services can visit:
The Springfield Regional Arts Council will continue this series on Thursday, November 8th, with a discussion around the LGBTQ community and the arts. Held at The Creamery Arts Center, this event is free and open to the public. Funding provided by the National Endowment of the Arts.