Celebrating its 4th birthday, nonprofit Poverty & The Arts provides entrepreneurial training, art supplies to artists experiencing homelessness
Beth Gunn became homeless when she moved to Nashville in July 2015. Gunn grew up in Massachusetts, and she is a survivor of sexual violence and trafficking. But that, she says, doesn’t define her. Beyond those experiences, she defines herself as an artist.
“Art is how I commune when words fail me or even before the words really,” she says.
Two years ago, Gunn began working with Poverty & the Arts (POVA), a local nonprofit whose mission is to provide artists who are experiencing homelessness with the opportunity to create, gain entrepreneurial skills and earn an income from their art. POVA provides artists with supplies, studio space and training, as well as an outlet through which to sell their work to art-lovers in and around Nashville. Artists earn 60 percent of original artwork sales, and Poverty & the Arts reinvests the remaining 40 percent to cover overhead and supplies.
“The biggest thing that it’s taught me is just how complicated homelessness is,” says Nicole Brandt Minyard, founder and executive director of POVA. “Every single client comes from such a diverse background — how they became homeless, their experience with it and how they were able to get out. There’s no one-size-its-all, but our take is to take a lot of these things we struggle hearing and put it into art. It’s more digestible that way. We can engage in more complex issues through the art without feeling too much discomfort."
Minyard founded POVA in 2011 while a student at Belmont University, and the organization received its 501(c)3 nonprofit status in 2014. After three years on 3rd Avenue South, POVA transitioned to a new space in East Nashville to accommodate its growing needs. The Dickerson Pike location includes two gallery areas and two studio areas and will be the location of the nonprofit’s birthday celebration. On July 14 from 6-8 p.m., POVA will host a birthday bash with a silent auction and art show at 1207 Dickerson Pike..
“Poverty & the Arts is very special to me — it’s like a sanctuary or a place of rest for the creative process. It’s not interrupted by day to day worries of the outside word,” Gunn says.