How One Woman's Business Uses Art To Combat Homelessness
Here at Bustle, we believe that in order to truly live your best life, you have to begin by learning about — and learning from — the women who paved the way. That's why we teamed up with Lexus to highlight some incredible women who are pioneering their industries, their careers, and most importantly, their communities.
Despite steady efforts to combat homelessness in recent years, the grim reality is that more than half a million Americans continue to live without basic necessities or a roof over their heads. According to a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, out of every 10,000 people in the United States, 17 have experienced homelessness on a single night in 2018.
Fortunately, individuals like Liz Powers work tirelessly every day to improve the lives of the homeless population. Though ArtLifting, a benefit corporation Powers co-founded with her brother Spencer in November of 2013, Powers has made it her mission to empower homeless and underprivileged individuals through art.
ArtLifting connects socially conscious companies with talented artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities. Artists have the opportunity to secure their own income by selling their artwork via ArtLifting.com, and consumers can buy original paintings, prints, and products for their home or office, all while feeling confident that their purchases are positively affecting individual lives, as well as the community.
Pioneering change isn’t easy, especially when it comes to confronting a problem as serious as homelessness. But Powers executes her cause with ease. Read on to learn more about how Powers is making a big difference throughout the Boston community, and beyond.
1. ArtLifting Focuses On Providing Opportunities, Not Handouts.
Powers had already been working with homeless and disabled individuals as a volunteer social worker for four years when she made the connection between art and combating homelessness.
“I repeatedly heard from clients, ‘Liz, I don’t want a handout, I want an opportunity,'” she explains. “It was clear I needed to help broaden the definition of a job in order to include more individuals with disabilities in the economy.”
After switching careers, Powers was running therapeutic art groups in shelters. When she saw sellable artwork being produced, something clicked: “I realized I should create a marketplace to connect talented artists who are homeless and have disabilities with consumers — and thus, ArtLifting was born!”
2. The Company Began In Boston, But Has Had A Ripple Effect In Other Communities.
Powers is originally from Boston and still lives there, so it made sense to launch ArtLifting in a community where she was already trusted and respected. Since she had experience working with homeless and disabled individuals for seven years prior to launching the company, it was clear she had the right intentions, and was well educated when it came to the artists she was aiming to represent.
“ArtLifting works with existing art groups in shelters and social service agencies across the country,” Powers says. “I love that we are able to partner with existing programs because that ensures that we are not duplicating efforts and we are ensuring that artists have supportive networks around them.”
3. ArtLifting Isn’t Just A Benefit Corporation — It’s A Talent Discovery Tool.
By shining a light on new talent, Powers believes that she is helping to democratize the art world.
“ArtLifting has forged its own path by choosing to represent artists that don’t have a proven track record of sales or a fancy resume,” Powers says. “We are representing artists with raw talent that deserve to have their work seen.”
And the approach is working. ArtLifting has customers in 46 states and 5 continents, and has sold original artwork for as much as $25,000.
4. Educating Corporate Consumers Is A Big Part Of The Company's mission.
In addition to changing lives and uncovering hidden talent, Powers is adamant about educating corporate consumers about the people behind the art they purchase.
“Our corporate customers have shared that ArtLifting enables them to support their community while encouraging innovation in their offices,” Powers says. “The plaques [that accompany the art] share artists’ stories of resilience and can help attract and retain employees by providing a daily reminder that they work at a company that cares.”
5. Powers Encourages Women To Make A Difference In Their Own Communities.
Powers has made an incredible impact on the Boston community and beyond, but she isn’t stopping there. She continues to encourage others to find problems they are passionate about solving, and identify creative solutions.
“By starting with the problem, you will ensure that you have the passion and drive to guide you through the inevitable ups and downs of entrepreneurship,” Powers says. “If your heart is in your business, you WILL have the strength to be resilient.”
This post is sponsored by the first-ever Lexus UX.