Over the past two semesters, students in Martin Hall Agency, the Reed College of Media’s student-run advertising and public relations firm, have partnered with the Morgantown Special Committee on Unsheltered Homelessness to create a comprehensive campaign plan to raise awareness and change the dehumanizing language surrounding the unsheltered community.
This semester, their efforts led to the launch of a Humans of Morgantown art experience: Neighborhoods Beyond Neighborhoods. The exhibit featured works about and by unsheltered neighbors and included original live music, photography, paintings, poems and ceramics.
The goal was to provide a safe space for community members to share their thoughts and to foster a dialogue about what it means to be a neighbor . After viewing the exhibit, visitors were asked to share their reflections on what it means to be a neighbor, the shared sense of community in Morgantown, the inspiration gleaned from the art and a general sense of compassion. One respondent wrote, “Fills me with hope for the place I call home.”
More than 300 visitors attended the exhibit on opening night and an additional 200 visited during the duration of the show. At the closing ceremony on April 21, more than three dozen community leaders, elected officials and artists gathered to talk about the greatest needs of unsheltered neighbors and possible solutions. A total of $1,600 was raised from art sales, donations and the sale of stickers, yard signs and door decals.
Morgantown residents also received guides explaining the importance of person-first language, which aims to tackle the subject of houselessness in a respectful, humanizing manner.
The exhibit was part of a partnership between the Morgantown City Council’s Subcommittee on Unsheltered Homelessness, Friendship House, Art Party, West Virginia Storytellers Guild and the Martin Hall Agency with funding provided by the Meyer Family Charitable Trust. Learn more at https://humansofmorgantown.com/.