Last August, I sent an email to Sarah Scott at Heartside Gallery in hopes of securing an internship for the 2013-2014 academic year. Never did I imagine one email could have such a huge impact on my life. From the minute I walked into Heartside I felt welcome. Katalina Corona was sitting in the Gallery, collaging in her usual spot. She welcomed me and said, “you’ll get addicted to being here.” At that time I didn’t doubt her, but at that point I couldn’t even begin to fathom the extent of what she meant.
I have declared two majors at Aquinas College-Art History and Community Leadership. My Art History major was chosen based on my love for art, and my Community Leadership major is based my passion for social justice and nonprofit organizations. To fulfill my requirement of a practicum and a capstone course, I was to complete 150 hours of service in the fall semester and write a grant during the spring semester. Although my requirement for being at Heartside was academically driven, I realized through this year I would have given all my time there for no credit.
Although I am young and developing my career pursuits, I know what I have found at Heartside is entirely unique. Everyday Heartside opens at 9AM and supports anyone who decides to enter its doors. This type of hospitality is rare and we need more of it in the world. Beyond all the services Heartside provides to neighbors, I think the most unique part is the familial element. That everyone feels welcome, that relationships go back years and years, the sense of community, and of family is incredible.
Quickly into the fall semester I felt a great connection to so many neighbors and staff members. Sarah’s support, empowerment and trust in me made me feel I could accomplish all the goals I had set forth. Beyond what achievements I have made this year for my school requirements, I have received the immeasurable benefit of just being at Heartside.
The most essential part of my experience was being involved in a discourse that I had not intimately known before. The biggest ill of society seems to be marginalizing a portion of the population. This occurs because of the disadvantages of poverty, mental, emotional or physical illness, and homelessness. I have always had a disdain for the disadvantages that occur from a disordered society. What I know now is that those who have faced hardships within their own life need only support. The support that is given at Heartside then breaks barriers and allows adversity to be replaced with strong character, individualism, and hope.
This character can be seen in the vibrant art on the gallery walls. Scott ’s graffiti inspired elephants, Gil’s geometric figurative work, Fuzzy’s cats and tornadoes, Mike’s puppets, James’ mugs and vases, Katalina’s collages, Deb’s colorful faces, Bertha’s mermaids, Mike’s water colored Ice Cube, Walter’s crocheted gloves, Magnus’ motorcycle riding man, Tom’s cars, and on and on. The power in their work exemplifies what truly amazing people fill the gallery everyday.
Now that I am several weeks out from moving away from Grand Rapids and back home to Chicago, Katalina’s words “you’ll become addicted” resonates even more. As someone who has a pretty addictive personality, I know how hard addiction is to break and leaving Heartside is going to be one of the harder things I have had to do in my life. It is going to be difficult to leave a place where anyone can come as they are, be supported, be creative, feel community, and feel positive change. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to people I am just getting to know. All I can do now is express my sincerest gratitude to everyone at Heartside for being so wonderful. Special thanks to Sarah who is truly one of the most amazing women I have ever met. I am so privileged she allowed me this experience.
xoxo, Love to Heartside always,