Friday, December 11, 2020

Creative Generosity Builds Communities

Originally published December 8, 2015

Help-Portrait, an annual photography event, commemorated its eighth year on December 15, 2015. Though not an official Help-Portrait event, New Haven's Mothers For Justice group members were invited to participate in a holiday portrait event the same day, organized by photojournalist volunteer Margaret Waage with the idea of giving back.

Help-Portrait was founded by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart and Kyle Chowning in 2008. Their mission is to empower photographers, hairstylists, and makeup artists to use their skills, tools, and expertise to give back to their local community.

The Mothers For Justice (MFJ) is a grass-roots women’s advocacy group that seeks to support one another and empower themselves and their families to improve their lives and their communities. MFJ was founded in 1933 and is dedicated to using its collective voice to change the systems that perpetuate poverty and injustice. Our issues and concerns are Welfare Reform, Prison Re-entry, Housing, Healthcare & Domestic Violence among many other things. A similarity MFJ shares with the Help-Portrait community is they both recognize giving back to the local community is one way to effect positive change.

There are great folks working with organizations year-round to make things better for those in need. Ginger Grant, a.k.a. Ginger Lee Originals, is a Connecticut art photographer and sees art as a way to enrich those living in Bristol, CT. Grant recently opened The Studio, an art studio space where she hosts painting, stitching, stamping, and numerous craft project classes. What’s the connection between creativity and hunger, you might ask. For Grant, the connection lies in building up an underserved community where residents might not have even considered taking a pencil or brush to paper to express feelings or life perspective. Grant advocates any growth must first come from a willingness to try. It’s only then that a person can see a possibility and from that, change can occur.

In October The Studio hosted a ‘Photo Feel Good’ event, inviting the public at large to have a photograph made, free of charge, and like Help-Portrait, a print was made and given to each participant. Nearby business neighbor Marisela Severino of Joamar Hair Salon volunteered her salon and services for the all-day event.

A photo session included make-up by Dori Green and contributed to making everyone feel good for the occasion. Grant collected business attire clothing donations and in turn, participants selected whatever they needed for a job interview. Sweaters, blouses, dresses, slacks, jackets, and winter coats were made available free to take home. That generosity of spirit is what creativity is about.

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