By Kristen Mabie
I met Spencer Powers, ’07 and his sister, Liz, at a crowded Cambridge restaurant one evening in November of 2013 to begin my internship at ArtLifting. I had been hired over the phone and never had an internship before so I had no clue what to expect, but it did not take long for me to feel not only comfortable with the Powers siblings but incredibly excited about the future of the Boston-based startup. ArtLifting, a L3C (low-profit limited liability company), seeks to empower homeless, disabled, and other disadvantaged individuals through the celebration and sale of their artwork. I got involved with ArtLifting before the company’s ecommerce platform opened, and at the time, four artists were going to join the program. Though it was a new venture, after seeing just a few pieces of artwork I had total confidence in the Powers’ vision. These four talented artists made me reconsider the stereotypes of homeless and disadvantaged individuals in our Boston community and what it means to be an artist.
Over the course of a few months, I was privileged to be able to see ArtLifting flourish. In January, the first four artists – Dante Gandini, Katie Schulz, Randy Nicholson, and Allen Chamberland – received their first checks, and it was clear the company was destined for success. In the months that followed, more artists from around the city got involved with ArtLifting, one company bought a large amount of artwork to be installed in their office, and ArtLifting was receiving more and more media coverage. Though I no longer work at the company, I regularly check in on what they have been up to and am thrilled to say that now, a year later, the company has expanded nationwide to support 45 artists in 8 cities.
If you are looking for a good cause and are a supporter of the arts in Boston – look no further. The first time I saw pictures of the artwork I was blown away, and to this day every time I check the website I am in awe. These artists, who have faced various challenges in their lives, have found a way to create beauty regardless of their situation. Their artistic mediums and styles are as diverse as their life stories, and the role art plays in each of their lives is unique, but their talent, strength and perseverance unites them as a group of artists who are truly inspiring. As an aspiring artist I can only hope to have the bravery these artists demonstrate by never giving up their creative process no matter what and allowing their powerful work to be seen by the public.
ArtLifting is not only showcasing the importance of art in our lives and breaking stereotypes about homeless or disabled members of our Boston community, but spreading this message nationwide. We have Spencer and Liz Powers to thank for that. The long hours they have spent establishing this company and allowing it to reach its potential are apparent. Whether you look at the website, visit their gallery in Boston, or read any of the media’s praise, you can just feel the enthusiasm shared by the Powers siblings, the artists, and everyone who has helped ArtLifting’s success. Everyone at ArtLifting truly embodies the Boston College slogan, “men and women for others.”
But don’t take it from me: check out the ArtLifting website, whether it is for artistic inspiration or to purchase the perfect gift. Read the stories of the inspirational artists, keep up with the motivated ArtLifting team and find out what ArtLifting is doing right now for the Boston community. You will not be disappointed. Though the artists themselves are not Boston College alumni, I am certainly proud to have interned at such an important organization and be able to say it was co-founded by a Boston College alumnus. The mission may be to empower the artists it features, but I think it is safe to say it has empowered many members of our community!