GSW’s latest ‘Homework’ gives hope to homeless families

Published 4:15 pm Thursday, April 27, 2017

From Staf Reports

AMERICUS — Georgia Southwestern State University’s (GSW) Department of Visual Arts has a new exhibit, and there is definitely more than meets the eye with this project.
The exhibit — titled “Homework” — is more than art. It’s a collaboration and movement with the GSW contemporary art theory class, the Americus-Sumter County Transitional Housing Ministries, and the local Fuller Center for Housing affiliate.
The project focuses on the needs of families transitioning from homelessness to temporary housing.
The Transitional Housing Ministries are a vision of Evangelist Buford Snipes, who brought many locals together to help address the unmet needs of women and children in housing crises. In meeting with Snipes, Kirk Lyman-Barner, director of the Americus affiliate of the Fuller Center for Housing, got involved as well.
“Our vision is to get a ‘web’ of houses donated that we can lease to families in crisis for up to two years while they are assigned to a mentor,” Lyman-Barner said. “Our mentors will create a road map for the family to get plugged into the already existing programs in the community and upon ‘graduation,’ the goal is for the family to get them back into the housing market and on their own.”
Lyman-Barner, a friend of GSW Professor of Visual Arts Keaton Wynn, knew that this program would be a great way to involve Wynn and his students.
“The connection with Keaton’s class was a brilliant way for his students to get involved. They studied art and social activism and applied it to one of the current situations we are working on,” Lyman-Barner said. “They envisioned a ‘starter kit’ for our families made by artists. As I see it, a gift of usable art such as a plate, bowl or printed curtains is a way to tell someone who has been having a rough time that they are important to the artist and thus the community. Being appreciated is the DNA of a caring community.”
“I have wanted to implement a craft theory project in the past but never had the opportunity,” Wynn said. “We had a great group of students in the class this semester and when Justin Hodges, our newest faculty member, showed an interest in the project we decided to turn words into work.”
For “Homework,” GSW faculty and students have created a variety of items that every family needs when starting a new home, including glassware and dinnerware, furniture and even an herb garden. All of the items fit together in a singular package that will be donated to the Transitional Housing Ministries and the Fuller Center to be given to families they are serving.

The two end tables opened displaying the various dinnerware items.

GSW students Sam Dodson, a junior from Lilburn; Jessica Jarriel, a senior from Americus; Megan Lisenby, a senior from Leesburg; and Levie Rainey, a sophomore from Bronwood, worked on the project. Dodson created the coffee table, Jarriel crafted the glass tumblers, Lisenby made the herb garden, and Rainey created the tablecloth.
Caitlin Daglis, a post baccalaureate student from Albany, created the doormat. Justin Hodges, GSW lecturer of photography and digital arts, created the end tables. Wynn created the dinnerware. Phil Vinson of Mobile Glassblowing Studios created glass cups.
“Craft is another word for care, and we hope the care that we have shown in making these useful things will be matched by the care shown for these new families starting a new life within our community,” said Wynn.
Wynn hopes to continue the program and develop it further over the next few years.
“We really see this as a long-term project that will develop over time,” Wynn said. “We have other ideas as well that will come under the umbrella of ‘Homework’ so we are committed to developing it further.”
The first exhibit of “Homework” was on April 7 at Mobile Glassblowing Studios during Americus’ First Friday festivities.The next showing will be from  5-8 p.m. at First Friday on May 5 at Center Stage Market. Included in their exhibition will be preliminary drawings and the items that they created.
“I do hope that Keaton’s class will be a story that is told far and wide and that it will inspire others to not only replicate the ‘Homework’ family starter kit, but that it will inspire other artists to find ways to interact with folks in crisis who are transitioning to wholeness,” Lyman-Barner said. “This project is so important.”