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Drury Students and Missouri Hotel Residents Come Together to Create Art

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Tomorrow afternoon from one to three, you can see works of art created by residents of the Missouri Hotel, a homeless shelter on Commercial Street in Springfield. The exhibit will take place at the Missouri Hotel and the theme is “Your life is a masterpiece: What are you creating?” Graduate students from Drury University assisted the residents in translating their life stories into works of art. KSMU’s Missy Shelton visited one of the art classes and files this report.

On this day, in the basement of the GED building on the campus of the Missouri Hotel in Springfield, an art class is underway the focus is on creative expression. The art class brings together graduate students from Drury University and residents of the Missouri Hotel. This is the last of three art classes here…The class begins with some music and a breathing exercise.

Then, the Missouri Hotel residents get their instructions from Drury student Kelley Albers. On this day, they’re making bracelets and bookmarks.

At one of the tables scattered throughout the room is Betty McKelvy. She and her husband have been living at the Missouri Hotel for nearly three weeks. She says she was hesitant at first about taking art classes.

Betty McKelvy says, “At first, I was tense, thinking, ‘I can’t do this’ because I’ve always been scared to try new things. I did this one and I was like ‘Hey, I can do this!’ And now it’s the last day and I want to go again!”

Betty McKelvy is creating a bookmark and a bracelet, two works of art that she hopes will remind her of what she’s been able to accomplish.

Betty McKelvy says, “I’m going to try to find the colors that would make me feel like I’ve got the faith and put it onto a little rope and make a bracelet out of it. This will be a reminder that this is the first time I’ve actually opened up and decided hey, you can try new things and accomplish it. And looking it, it’s going to be, ‘If I can do this once, I can do it again.’”

It’s not the just the residents of the Missouri Hotel who have learned something from these three art classes. Drury graduate student Tonya Carlock says the class has taught her a lot.

Tonya Carlock says, “Getting to know your inner self, working with other people who may be different than you. As you know, people in society are very judgmental. I think this class teaches each and every one of us that we should never judge another person. Everyone has their own story and until you get to know a person, you really don’t know what they’re about. I think this class shows not only the students that but the residents here.”

Drury faculty member Rebecca Burrell developed this partnership between the university and the Missouri Hotel back in 2001. She says art is a wonderful way for residents of the homeless shelter to express themselves.

Rebecca Burrell says, “I use the term articulating—ART-iculating. It’s not that they are expressing through a finished, artistic-trained approach necessarily but it’s very much from within, what they want to express through color, shape, and the emotions—emotions come through this.”

Burrell says part of this process is driven by what she calls the art of living well. That includes being willing to sign off on works of art you create and sign off on the life you create, that is, take ownership of what you do.

Rebecca Burrell says, “So, metaphorically, we’re out and about in our lives, colorfully expressing ourselves, making a life. So, hopefully, there are encouragements that come from this that help folk forge a life composition that they are proud to continue to sign off on.”

The final art class ended with a poem from graduate student Tonya Carlock…It’s a poem she wrote herself, something she was inspired to do by her work at the Missouri Hotel.