COLORADO SPRINGS. You may not have known this, but the Marian House Complex is more than a soup kitchen: it is also a showcase for numerous forms of art. Over the years, various artists, individuals and groups have donated art to be displayed throughout the facility. For those we serve, art galleries and museums are usually not experiences that are readily available or in the budget, so this brings the beauty and experience of art to everyone.
Kathy Loo worked with Catholic Charities during the construction of the new Marian House Complex in 2007 and 2008 to ensure the facility featured bright colors and art to enhance the experience of the people who rely on the Marian House for daily support. Loo also arranged to have the Fine Arts Center’s Youth at Risk art program provide a rotating exhibit for the Family Dining Room. These paintings are changed every quarter. What began as a simple color palette and a few pieces of art, has expanded to “mini-galleries” featuring professional artists, aspiring artists, and pieces of art that have been restored and donated by “Friends of the Marian House” to be enjoyed by everyone.
One of the oldest pieces is a stained glass window that was the backdrop on the altar of the chapel in the old Victorian Marian House. The glass was moved to St. Mary’s Cathedral shortly before the building was demolished to make way for the Hanifen Center at Marian House. Today, the stained glass hangs in the lower foyer at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
The first art exhibit installed at the new Marian House was due to the efforts of Wendy Mike, founder of FutureSelf, an organization that helped under-served, low-income youth discover success through art. Six of her students created massive works that were donated and still are on display in the soup kitchen dining room. The self-portraits are creative and amazing. The synergy of low-income youth creating art to be enjoyed by people who struggle the most in our community is a gift to us all.
Mike then engaged Catholic Charities volunteers, board members, and staff to create “Jesus and the Soup Bowl” through her Creative Engagement Workshop, where each person works on a small section, then all the pieces are put together to reveal the finished work of art. Artemis Women used this same process to create the “Tree of Life”, which hangs in the Hanifen Center.
Several statues have been donated and are displayed in the dining room including a large statue of St. Vincent de Paul, which was completely refurbished by Mary McLean and donated by Holy Trinity Parish. Alongside it is a large, olive wood cross from the Holy Land with a bit of soil from Jerusalem in its base, which was donated by “Friends of Marian House.” Many of the works have been blessed by Bishop Sheridan or other priests in our diocese.
Ruth Burink, a local sculptor, donated “The Guardian,” her version of the Madonna and Child, to support Catholic Charities’ work with families with young children. A base was built to match the brick of the Marian House facility and it was permanently installed in the entrance to the Hanifen Center.
David Futey, a local photographer and Marian House volunteer, spent weeks taking photographs of clients, volunteers, and the architecture of the old Marian House before the Victorian home was demolished. A series of his client portraits, “Faces of Marian House,” is displayed in the Hanifen Center.
Joe and Ann Reich and their family donated a beautiful, metal crucifix which was created by Benedictine Father Mike Murray of Holy Cross Abbey. It was installed by Murphy Constructors in the Courtyard of Compassion located in front of the Marian House Soup Kitchen.
Some of the art at the Marian House was created for specific programs. St. Mary’s High School Art Honor Society painted a Jungle Mural directly on the wall in the clothing closet at Life Support Services (LSS), which serves families with young children. Jungle Story-Time was held weekly in front of the mural and gave pleasure to thousands of children who played while their parents shopped for clothes. Since LSS is now part of Family Connections, photos of the mural were taken and it was put on canvas to hang in the Kidz Korner at the Helen Hunt Campus.
Clients have also contributed to the art displayed in the complex. Elsa Chacon painted two Gardenscape murals on the walls in the Life Support area, which brightened the waiting area for families seeking services.
Dennis Owen contributed several works of art to the Marian House which hang in the dining room near the serving line. Referring to one of the paintings, he says, “This is my rendition or idea of the Marian House Soup Kitchen. Anybody can come to the soup kitchen.”
Volunteer Marcy Tuthill, has painted several portraits and written poems based on her volunteer experience at Marian House. Her series is called Faces of Survivors. She said, “I call them survivors, not homeless, because they are surviving every day.” Her portraits and framed poems can be found on the landing of the Hanifen Center.
One of the newest pieces is a print on canvas created by Lisa Lundquist and donated by Jen Polk. It is a smiling rendition of Jesus, and is one of the brightest and most colorful pieces in the collection. It is installed at the entrance of the Marian House Soup Kitchen.
There is also a place for Marian House history. In the waiting area of the Hanifen Center, the original Marian House sign along with the inlaid wood door to the chapel hangs on the wall.
On the first Friday of each month, tours are given of the Helen Hunt Campus and the Marian House Complex at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively. We would love to share this art with the community. Sign up for a tour at CCharitiesCC.org/tours.
(Rochelle Schlortt is Chief Communications Officer for Catholic Charities of Central Colorado.)