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28 November 2021
Salvo program participants painted images of what poverty meant to them, emphasising the love and support they have received to help rebuild their lives.
Art exhibition paints people’s experiences in new light
Words Jessica Morris
What does poverty look like? A recent art exhibition at the Perth Mint displayed the ‘painted stories’ of people who have accessed The Salvation Army’s Moneycare (financial counselling) and Doorways (emergency assistance) programs across Perth.
“Most people living in poverty don’t need it explained to them – but the wider community sometimes don’t understand how poverty feels and what it looks like it,” said Mandy Dehnel, Moneycare Manager for Western Australia. “So, we came up with this idea of asking Moneycare and Doorways community members to paint their experiences.”
In the lead-up to Anti-Poverty Week last month, Salvation Army churches and services worked side-by-side in Morley, Balga, Mandurah, Rockingham, Perth, and Swan View to set up community arts events. With the provision of canvases, paints, and brushes, Doorways and Moneycare community members were invited to paint their answer to the question, “What does poverty look like to you?”
The team also contacted Morley Salvos officer (pastor) and painter, Captain Jo Brookshaw, who recorded an instructional video for clients that was shared at workshops across Perth. It resulted in more than 50 compelling paintings, giving an insight into the reality of poverty.
“My experience of the workshop event at Morley Salvos showed me how cathartic it was for people to express what poverty meant to their world,” said Jo. “The journeys they had lived, and the way they had found hope and resilience on the way, were incredibly uplifting! Some of the artists expressed how much their relationship with the Salvos had brought support when it was needed most.
“The joy, compassion, care and encouragement shared in our workshop was a tangible experience of God’s kingdom at work. As the participants packed up and were leaving, one notably commented on their painting, ‘That was my life 10 years ago, and I’m never going back!’ He left with a grin on his face and a skip in his step.”
A selection of paintings was chosen for the exhibition, including photos of Moneycare and Doorways staff holding signs to help break the myths about poverty. The hope is these will start a conversation about poverty with the general public, highlighting the strength and tenacity of the artists and solidifying our commonalities.
“I believe as people see the artworks and read the accompanying stories, they will clearly see God’s hand at work – his hope and light brought to people in the midst of their struggles,” shared Jo. “I am immensely proud of the Salvo workers and volunteers who express this love day by day through our Doorways and Moneycare programs. Their impact on our local community is practically sharing the compassion of Jesus, day by day.”