By Liz Powers, 2011-12 Rotary Scholar to Edinburgh, Scotland
“You feel like you are on guard 24/7,” shared Scott Benner, a homeless individual in the Boston area.
Scott is one of the many homeless individuals who has shared with me the everyday dangers and fears that he faces. My friend Katie Hickey Schultz faced similar challenges during her 10 years of chronic homelessness. “I spent a long time fighting for my right to exist everywhere I went.” As a Rotary Scholar, my goal is to help individuals like Scott and Katie gain self-esteem and earn an income by selling their artwork.
I have worked with homeless and disabled individuals for the past eight years. From 2006-10, I worked one-on-one with homeless individuals and helped them secure housing, employment, and food stamps. After graduating from Harvard in 2010, I received a fellowship to start art groups in women’s homeless shelters in the Boston area.
From 2011-12, I received a global grant scholarship to study in Edinburgh, Scotland. I earned a masters creating social change documentaries and started an art show that focused on the amazing talents of homeless individuals.
Working with homeless artists as a Rotary Scholar was revolutionary for my growth as a social entrepreneur. In December of 2013, my brother Spencer Powers and I founded ArtLifting, an art gallery that features the work of homeless and disabled artists. By being on the ArtLifting platform, artists are emotionally empowered and have an opportunity to earn a stable income. ArtLifting’s impact has been featured in the Boston Globe, Bloomberg Businessweek (online), ABC local news, and the Huffington Post. Our mission is inspired by Rotary’s mission of Service Above Self.
Allen Chamberland, one of ArtLifting’s artists shared: “ArtLifting has done so much for me, it’s to the point now where this time next year I won’t have to be on disability anymore. I’ll be able to support myself, because of ArtLifting.” Allen has been wheelchair-bound for over a decade and suffers from chronic pain. His self-esteem and independence increased exponentially when people began focusing on his talents.
After successfully launching in Boston with savings on a shoestring budget, my brother and I decided to raise funds to expand. We partner with existing nonprofits on the ground in order to help their artists receive the professional gallery they deserve. Learn more about our effort on our website.