Arts Feature: The Art Room
Painter Karen Lucci and Triune Mercy Center feed the homeless population’s hunger for creative expression
Written By: Nichole Livengood
Photographs by: Paul Mehaffey
The Art Room
Greenville’s poorest flock to Triune Mercy Center at the corner of Rutherford Street and Stone Avenue. They come for food, clothing, jobs, and help with addiction. But about a year ago, the patrons of this place got a surprise. A local artist assembled a working studio above the cafeteria so that she might open her doors to the creatively starved.
“People can come in and paint, sew, knit, or write,” explains Karen Lucci, a professional painter since the 1980s and the brains behind the brushwork offered at The Art Room. There are no formal programs. No set projects. People who can’t afford a box of crayons are encouraged to simply show up on Sunday afternoons and be inspired.
Although most of the artists create pieces to give as gifts, some of their work is rotated on display in the sanctuary of Triune; those pieces that are left behind are sold to benefit the program. “The Art Room was a grassroots ministry, and it turned out to be one of the most wonderful things at Triune,” says Triune Mercy Center’s the Reverend Deb Richardson-Moore. Many clients express that their only other exposure to art has been during incarceration.
“The only way they can paint in jail is to take the color off M&M’s. They call it ‘candy colors,’” Lucci explains. One gentleman, who after being imprisoned struggled to adapt to a more conventional style of painting using watercolors and quality paper, has become an Art Room regular. And as an added benefit, his enthusiasm for art has helped him in an ongoing battle to overcome addiction.
It’s not unusual for students to show up at The Art Room high on drugs or in the throes of mental illness. But, says Lucci, “You have to let it be what it is and accept these people for who they are and where they are at that moment. It’s a place where they aren’t just a bum or a number. You know their name. And that’s what’s so important.”
Donations can be delivered to:
Triune Mercy Center222 Rutherford StreetGreenville, SC 29609