Mercy House youth tell stories of homelessness

newspaper-headerThe Arts Council of the Valley awarded six Advancing the Arts grants for this 2012-2013 academic year.  During March 2013, the creators of Residence and Refuge, a five-week writing and photography workshop made possible by an Advancing the Arts grant, worked closely with the Mercy House after-school program to offer elementary and middle school residents artistic skills with which to tell their stories.

Sarah Murphy and Kayla Runion, workshop teachers and coordinators of the program, compiled the writing and photography of each student into a book that will be on display at the Smith House on May 3rd, 2013 along with a photography exhibit from the workshops.

Sarah Murphy conceptualized Residence and Refuge specifically for the Mercy House After School Program. The After School Program is operated almost entirely by volunteers from various colleges and universities in the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, including James Madison University, Bridgewater College, and Eastern Mennonite University.  By providing care for homeless families, Mercy House not only improves the lives of the families it serves, but also makes a lasting contribution to the larger community.

During the Residence and Refuge five-week After School Program, a group of eight to twelve elementary and middle school students joined Sarah and Kayla on Monday and Friday evenings to learn the basics of photography and writing.  Workshop themes included “Light and Shadow,” “Persona,” “Narrative,” “Folklore and Fairytale,” and “Embracing Culture.”  The format allowed students to share their experiences as homeless youth through photography, fiction, poetry, comic book writing, journaling, and free-hand drawing.

Join the student artists, Sarah Murphy, Kayla Runion, and Arts Council of the Valley on Friday May 3rd, 2013 at 5:00pm at the Smith House for the Residence and Refuge program exhibit. The Residence and Refuge books will go to the participating students, and the rest will be on sale at the First Fridays Downtown exhibit, the proceeds from which will go directly to Mercy House.

Please visit for more information about The Arts Council of the Valley and its programming

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