NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When you think of Nashville, you think bright lights and big music.
Poverty is not part of its image.
“There’s so many creative people that never get a chance to do anything with it. You’re too busy trying to survive, trying to eat, trying to stay alive,” said Chris Bandy, an artist.
But poverty does exist in Nashville, and the rest of the U.S. At a house on the east side of the city, some of those living on less are doing a little more.
“I’m doing what I was meant to be, you know, being a practicing, creative artist,” said Kateri Pomeroy, a Nashville artist.
She uses the studio space at Poverty for the Arts.
Pomeroy and her husband Sam are two of the first artists to join POVA, as it’s known. Sam was finishing up a wood sculpture he’s been working on.
POVA was started by Nicole Minard as a way to help people who didn’t have access to art supplies and studio space.
“I really saw the breadth of talent so many people on the streets had, and I would get questions like, ‘how can I get my art in a coffee shop?’ or ‘people see me drawing on the street every day, how do I get it to them without a cop pulling up and stopping me?’” said Minard.
Minard provides the space, and the supplies for people who want to create art and she helps them sell it. POVA pays artists 60 percent of the selling price. They reinvest the other 40 percent into rent and supplies.
“In those five years since we’ve started, we’ve served over 75 different artists and we’ve paid out over $35,000 to artists on the street,” said Minard.
The program gives exposure for artists who otherwise wouldn't have it.
“If you don’t have the right school, the right gallery, the right representation, you really don’t get seen,” said Bandy
For those that use the space to paint, draw or scribble, POVA is a place to prove they belong, even if they've known their potential all along.
Edwin Lockridge was born with a paintbrush in his hand.
“My parents actually have pictures of me, photographs of me as a baby with a pen and paper in my hands,” said Lockridge.
But life has been rough for him and his family.
“My mother and my father both have Alzheimer's bad, excuse me. I admit that I’m not in the best of health myself,” Lockridge said.
To him, POVA is a matter of life and death.
“The revenue from my art buys art supplies, medicine, necessary stuff to keep me alive for my basic survival," said Lockridge.
For Pomeroy, Bandy and Lockridge, POVA provides opportunities they could not have thought possible.
“This place has given me a transfusion, a new blood, and a new way to live" said Pomeroy.
“We are family,” said Bandt.
“There are no words, there are no words. This is my extended family without a doubt,” said Lockridge.
That sense of family and community is a work of art no one can put a price on.