By : Lydia Simmons / Staff Writer
For junior Nate Henry being an active member of his community has always been a priority. As a sustainable business major with a focus in marketing and a minor in economics, his passion for business is something that he always wanted to use to improve his community and help those around him who needed it. Helping others was a value instilled in him by his parents from a young age. When he was deciding on a business venture to pursue nothing felt right until he found the perfect way to combine the two.
For about six months Henry kept a journal of potential business ideas but none of them seemed right until one day before the start of the fall semester, it dawned on him. Henry started a single member nonprofit called Art With Heart L3C, which connects homeless individuals or people who have previously experienced homelessness across the state of Maine with local artists in order to tell their story. Though not an artist himself, Henry has an appreciation for art. Pairing this appreciation with his passion for helping others was just the combination he needed to get out there and make it happen.
How the process works is Henry goes out into the community and connects with homeless individuals. He begins with explaining what his cause is and the business premise of the L3C to see if they are interested in participating. Henry said, “In my experience so far they are really moved by the idea and happy to tell their story to someone who is really listening.” He writes up the stories of the people he interviews, summarizing who they are as a person and some aspects of their journey that are important to them. He then takes that story to artists who have contracted themselves to the business and gives them creative license to create art that tells the story of the individuals.
After the artwork is complete he finds buyers for the artwork, networking for the business and the artist alike. All of the net profits from the selling of the paintings goes back into the community to assist those who struggle with homelessness. The profits are donated to local homeless shelters or substance abuse counseling organizations, whatever fits best to the story of the person who inspired the artwork.
When talking about the goal for the nonprofit Henry said, “The L3C has a dual purpose of destigmatizing what it means to be homeless while also helping local artists gain exposure.” The stigma surrounding homelessness is one that is heavily ingrained in today’s society. Stigmas develop when people perceive a person or group in a single way, without taking into consideration or educating themselves on the stories of the individuals.
There is no way to encompass the lives of a group of people by telling just a single story, generalizing their struggles and templating the journey of how they got to where they are. Sometimes single stories can have a negative impact as is the case for many homeless individuals. By telling a single narrative about people who struggle with homelessness it has led to the adaptation of preconceived opinions and stigmas which cloud the unique stories of each individual. The only way to break these single story assumptions that place people in boxes built by society’s judgement is to make the true stories of the individual heard.
Art With Heart L3C is the type of step needed to make sure that the stories of homeless people are brought to light. In a world where we need each other now more than ever, it is ventures like this from forward thinking minds like Nate Henry’s that make all the difference.
To support Art With Heart L3C you can visit their website, follow their Instagram, purchase artwork, or donate to the Art With Heart L3C Gofundme page!