Accounting Firm MarksNelson Conceived Idea, Found Artists,
Compiled Art, Sponsoring Exhibit to Help Homeless Gain Visibility,
Showcase Talents in Honor of Its 50th Anniversary
InVisible -- an exhibit featuring powerful, inspired art created by the homeless and recently homeless -- is opening in the Museum at Prairiefire, 5801 W. 135th St., Overland Park, KS. Designed to challenge perceptions of the homeless, give them a voice and visibility through their artwork, and showcase their talents, the exhibit runs Sept. 26 - Dec. 31. All proceeds from the sale of the art and poetry exhibited will go to the 12 artists.
The exhibit, InVisible, is sponsored by and the brainchild of Kansas City’s largest locally owned accounting firm, MarksNelson, which conceived of the exhibit after meeting homeless Kansas Citians through its Wrapped in Warmth project last winter. MarksNelson distributed over 2,000 free hats, scarves and gloves by tying them around trees and lamp posts in areas frequented by the homeless. “Several of the homeless expressed their heartfelt thanks to employees while sharing that many people ignore them, and that they are made to feel like they are looked down upon and almost like they are not worthy or human,” says MarksNelson’s Kim Woirhaye-Reid.
This had a deep impact on MarksNelson employees involved in the firm’s Marks of Kindness program who were looking for a way to serve the community as part of celebrating MarksNelson’s 50th anniversary. Conceiving InVisible, employees approached homeless people including at highway ramps and worked with local service organizations to identify homeless artists. The accounting and business advisory firm compiled the art which The Museum at Prairiefire agreed to exhibit in its public space.
One of the artists, Mikey, says that being chosen to exhibit his art helped to save his life. “For most of my life, I’ve felt I wasn’t good enough or deserving. I turned to drugs and ended up homeless. But my life completely changed this spring after I was selected to be part of the InVisible exhibit. It basically saved my life. It gave me something to look forward to and made me feel worthy. I checked myself into rehab and am thankful for this fresh start.”
Another artist, Lexy, says, “This exhibit is a chance for people to see we are human too. We are all equal. Being houseless doesn’t make you a bad person or less deserving of kindness and love. We have struggles just like everyone else, but often they are more immediate like food, or getting out of the freezing cold.”
In addition to breaking down barriers to foster understanding and compassion and validating the artists’ self-worth, MarksNelson hopes to stimulate conversation and challenge other businesses to think outside the box regarding how to make a positive impact on our community, says Woirhaye-Reid.
InVisible is part of MarksNelson’s Marks of Kindness program, which uses creative, innovative methods to inspire its workforce to serve the community, make an impact, and move it forward.
Local nonprofit, Artists Helping the Homeless (AHH), also contributed to the exhibit. AHH President Kar Woo has dedicated the last 10 years to helping not only the homeless but the organizations and agencies that deal with the homeless every day, such as hospitals, police, and shelters. Last year, he and his AHH team helped over 2,600 people.
“Homelessness affects people from all walks of life and ages. It doesn’t matter what socioeconomic status people fall into, it can affect anyone,” Woo says. “Kansas City’s homeless have talents and dreams that were sidetracked by life’s twists and turns. InVisible shares some of those talents and dreams.”