In anticipation of Art for Jobs 2017, we are excited to announce that Meredith Olinger will once again be contributing her artwork to the show!
Last year, Meredith Olinger was one of the featured artists at our annual fundraiser, Art for Jobs. Advance had recently acquired a 24,000 sq. foot warehouse and now had the opportunity to try some new things. Meredith was simultaneously trying out some new methods in her studio. She began painting the walls of her studio and after a few conversations with Kate Lareau, head of Art for Jobs at the time, they decided to present the idea of artist walls to a few other artists that would be contributing artwork to the show. They ended up with 8′ x 8′ walls that were made in the warehouse by Mike Shaw, Advance’s Program Manager, and Walter Brown, Work Life and GED graduate, as a new way of displaying the artists’ work. The artists had total freedom with the walls and could choose to paint the whole wall, part of the wall, or use it to hang their artwork.
Meredith decided to paint the whole wall, a method she had begun experimenting with in her studio. The result was a spectacular piece of artwork on display at Art for Jobs, as well as a transformation of Meredith’s work as she began to shift from canvas to wall. The following is her story. We cannot wait to she what she has to share with us this year!
“I work primarily on the wall. This hasn’t always been the case. For a long time, I worked on a traditional canvas, or in sculpture. However, I was always experimenting with new formats and ways of displaying my work; nothing ever felt right.
In the spring of 2016, in a complete act of boredom, I doodled on the wall of my studio. The doodle soon took over the entire studio. I liked what I saw, so I posted it on Instagram, not thinking much of it. I was soon contacted by Kate Lareau, who was planning and executing Advance Memphis’s upcoming show, Art for Jobs. She had had an idea for the show: what if artists were given entire walls on which to display their work or, even better, on which to create new work? We started hashing out this idea, and this plan became a reality. Artists were given a wall in which to create whatever they want. Some simply displayed a gallery wall of their work, some made large scale paintings, others created a backdrop for their small-scale work. Every artist approached it differently.
My wall was 8’ x 8’. I didn’t realize that that wall would change the trajectory of my work completely. I think I finished that 8’ x 8’ wall in a week. Which is crazy, considering the size, but working that large felt so natural for me.
Meredith’s Artist Wall at Art for Jobs 2016
After I completed this wall, I quickly started taking over the walls of my studio. I stopped making small scale work. The studio became the work. I drew on the wall, painted on the wall, and applied my own wallpaper to the wall. It was new and exciting; I was no longer making a window for the viewer to look into, I was creating a space for the viewer to walk into. I had stepped from the safe world of painting into the wonky world of installation.
Meredith’s work on the walls of her studio
For my graduate thesis exhibition, I knew I had to go big or go home. I also knew that I would have a whole new set of challenges: how was I to take my work out of the studio and into the gallery? I decided I needed to build a space, despite my mediocre carpentry skills. I had three months to make 3 pieces that were 12’ long, and I had to build the walls on which they would be displayed. The Advance Memphis graduates did such a great job on the Art for Jobs’ walls; I thought maybe they could help me out again. I commissioned 9, 4’ x 8’ walls. This way, they could be moved in and out of the gallery relatively easily, but then could be pieced together to create the appearance of a seamless wall. Again, Advance Memphis was crucial for my artistic development.
Meredith’s Graduate Thesis
LAUNCH Graduate, May 2016
Owner, Premium Cleaning and Maintenance Solutions
In February 2016, after graduating from Work Life and Faith & Finances, Rico Holt decided to come through the LAUNCH entrepreneurship class in order to start his own business. Rico had experience and skills in commercial cleaning, and he wanted to learn how to use these skills to help the community, provide for his family, and possibly even employ some of his neighbors. Greg Spillyards, who had been Rico’s Champion when he came through Work Life in 2015, encouraged him to pursue this dream, and even joined the LAUNCH class with Rico as a business mentor.
A year after graduating from LAUNCH, Rico is continuing to take steps forward with his business, Premium Cleaning & Maintenance Solutions. With Greg’s help, he crafted and was approved for his first bid on a commercial property, which he is now cleaning on a weekly basis. He has picked up some additional jobs and is looking to grow even more.
Recently, we asked Rico about why he started his business:
“I decided to start a business in commercial cleaning because I have always had a passion for hospitality. I took advantage of the opportunity to attend Pontiac Business Institute and graduated a few years ago. This has allowed me to help others in the community, and to provide for my son’s schooling. I have especially enjoyed making a commitment to provide quality service at a high standard, which meets the expectations of my customers.”
“Premium Cleaning & Maintenance Solutions performs interior and exterior cleaning jobs all around Memphis. While we focus on commercial properties, we are willing to take residential clients as well. Our company provides service that is both reliable and affordable, and we place a high value on honesty and ethical behavior. Our customers benefit from our quality and trustworthy service.”
PCMS can provide service based on your schedule. Normally, we will do weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly services, depending on your needs. We are also able to do special projects and are flexible to accommodate more specific requests.
Cost and availability are based on the size of the building and the specific needs.
We are offering the following special discounts for a limited time:
Over the past 12 years, Advance Memphis has utilized soft-skills job training to help people get to work. From 2005 to 2015, we used a curriculum from an organization called Jobs for Life. Two years ago, Advance Memphis and the Chalmers Center for Economic Development worked with Jobs for Life to co-publish a new jobs-training curriculum called Work Life, specifically designed for communities suffering from the effects of multi-generational poverty. Since the completion of the curriculum, Advance Memphis and the Chalmers Center have partnered to train churches and ministries in Work Life, and Advance now runs an annual training for new Work Life Facilitators. Advance Memphis is deeply grateful for this partnership with Jobs for Life and the Chalmers Center that has spanned many years. We are also grateful for the many churches and organizations that are engaged in this work around our nation.
Work Life is a biblically integrated job and life-skills curriculum designed specifically for low-income adults. Through Work Life, churches and non-profits can assist the materially poor in developing crucial skills for flourishing in their careers and communities. While Work Life covers typical jobs-readiness topics like interviewing skills and understanding what employers want, the curriculum goes deeper and engages participants in God’s grand story for their lives. Participants, Allies, and Instructors walk together in relationships, uncovering how to live all of life, including work, in light of that story. Naming gifts, developing communication skills, healing from the past, and overcoming difficult roadblocks are all topics addressed in interactive, participatory ways throughout the curriculum. The $350 training package equips you to walk with your low-income neighbors over time, leading to lasting transformation. Register here.
Becoming a Work Life facilitator prepares you to:
Start Work Life classes in your community by:
The Work Life Facilitator Training costs $350 at the early bird rate and $400 after May 21st. The training will take place in two stages. The online portion will begin June 5; live training will take place July 14th and 15th at Advance Memphis. Register here.
Interested in auditing? If you’re considering whether Work Life is right for your group or you have team members who would benefit from some training (though they won’t be facilitating), consider auditing. Participants may audit the online portion of training for $25. This does not include the live training and will not result in certification. Email Bryce Stout at email@example.com with questions about auditing.
The Value of Stories
As we at Advance Memphis walk in relationships with our neighbors, one thing that we continually recognize is the importance of stories. Each person on Advance’s staff, each volunteer, and each neighbor has a particular story, which includes the gifts God has created us for, our pains and joys, our desires, our relationships, and so much more. Because we value relationships so deeply at Advance— in fact, we think that relationships are at the very center of God’s design for our lives— we are always looking to participate in each other’s stories. In our Work Life curriculum, we spend two full lessons talking about the importance of acknowledging and dealing with things in our past (our story) in order to move forward into God’s design for our lives.
On Day 6 of Work Life, the class gathers together for a time of sharing and listening. It takes a lot of bravery and trust to open up to each other and put it all on the table, the good and the bad. Consequently, this time of sharing life stories is consistently the most difficult and impactful part of each Work Life class. The result is an opportunity to look into each other’s lives and see deeper than the sorrows, joys, pain, and growth – it is an opportunity to see God at work, to learn from each other, and to begin participating in each other’s stories.
Acknowledging Our Collective Story
In the month of February, we want to acknowledge the fact that, though individual stories are important, there are larger Stories that affect each of us deeply. To be sure, we are all part of a grand story of cosmic redemption that God is working out on this earth, healing the effects of sin and brokenness all around us. More particularly, the month of February is a time to focus and highlight some parts of our shared story as Americans that is too often glossed over in history books, and dangerously ignored in our conversations about our collective story. Black History Month calls us to acknowledge and inculcate stories of amazing accomplishment against all odds; stories of deep, soul-wrenching pain; stories of success stomped out by sinister systems; stories of beauty and flourishing; all stories that have black people at their center. We must be open to listen to both the heroism and the hurt as we hear the history.
“The problem occurs when we cover [our stories] up, try to ignore the pain, and live as though these things did not happen.” Each of our Work Life students hears this in Lesson 3, as we begin to look at our past. The Church needs to hear this, too. We hope that the Church, both black and white, will take time this month to listen to our black brothers’ and sisters’ stories from the distant and the recent past in order to be more knowledgeable and maybe even more empathetic participants in our own—and each other’s—stories.
Looking Back: A Story to Listen To
Let us offer one example, from John Hope Bryant, founder of Operation Hope. John Hope Bryant explains in his book How the Poor Can Save Capitalism, how President Abraham Lincoln began the Freedman’s Savings Bank shortly after the end of the Civil War, in order to help empower former slaves who desired to enter into the economy. Unfortunately, Lincoln was assassinated shortly thereafter and the new president, Andrew Johnson, had vastly different stances on black empowerment. Bryant notes, “At its height, the Freedman’s Savings Bank had seventy thousand depositors, all of whom were formerly enslaved. Unfortunately, due in large part to the destructive efforts of Johnson and the mismanagement and gaming of the bank that followed, the bank ultimately did fail, and every depositor lost his or her money. All of it. This may be part of the reason that black Americans and other disadvantaged groups do not trust banks and the government today.”
W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in the early 1900’s of the crash of the Freedmen’s Bank, “All the hard-earned dollars of the freedmen disappeared; but that was the least of the loss—all the faith in saving went too, and much of the faith in men; and that was a loss that a Nation which today sneers at Negro shiftlessness has never yet made good. Not even ten additional years of slavery could have done so much to throttle the thrift of the freedmen as the mismanagement and bankruptcy of the [Freedmen’s Bank].” Du Bois demonstrates in an almost-prophetic manner the incredible effect that this Historical Event—an intimate piece of our Nation’s Story—had on the trust of former slaves in financial institutions, and on the perceptions of black people in the eyes of the Nation.
Moving Forward: Participate in Others’ Stories
Without listening to our Story—even the parts we wish we could ignore—we cannot move forward. Advance Memphis desires to continue to build relationships every day that help us to be a part of each other’s stories as we walk together in God’s design for our lives. During Black History Month, we wanted to take a moment to recall one episode in our Nation’s Story that affects people to this day, and to encourage the Church to learn more about our history—our stories—so that we can all take steps to move toward healing.
This healing will be impossible without listening and participation. At Advance, we seek to take time to listen to our neighbors, and when we do this, we find that we truly learn. It’s our human tendency to speak our minds. But how can we learn without taking time to genuinely listen? In this vein, we encourage both white people and black people in the Church to enter into long-term relationships with each other—come volunteer at Advance, or visit a local church where you are in the minority, or invite somebody into your home that has a very different story than you do. May God help us to begin actively participating in each other’s stories; when we do this, we will reflect his Kingdom in more deep and beautiful ways.
 John Hope Bryant, How the Poor can Save Capitalism (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2014), 62.
 W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994), 22-23.
A launch graduate from our November 2015 class, we are very proud of Ashley Gladney and the work that her business, Mobile Mommy, has been doing. We caught up with her to talk about what got her interested in this business, how she wants to grow, and more…
Ashley Gladney: It’s been a dream for years. When I was a teenager working as a babysitter, I began to see that there was an actual babysitting industry, and I knew I wanted to start a babysitting service when I got older.
Advance Memphis: What has surprised you most about being a small business owner?
Ashley Gladney: The feedback I’ve been getting about the idea. I didn’t think people would think this was such a big deal, but the positive feedback has been overwhelming and I’m excited to see where it goes.
Advance Memphis: What is the best part of running your own business?
Ashley Gladney: Having the freedom to work for myself—it’s rewarding to work for myself, build a brand, and build my own company. It’s a good feeling. I love the thought that one day I will be working for myself, through something I built from the ground up.
Advance Memphis: What is the hardest part of running your own business?
Ashley Gladney: Having to be and do everything. I have good employees, but trying to catch up with them and see if they can do a job, along with managing everything myself, can be difficult.
Advance Memphis: Where would you like to see Mobile Mommy go in the future?
Ashley Gladney: One day, I would like to see Mobile Mommy in as many cities and states as possible. I would like for Mobile Mommy to be well known and mentioned among the best child care companies. I would like for many mothers, as well as student parents, to benefit from Mobile Mommy. It’s really good when my clients tell me how much Mobile Mommy is a benefit to them. One client said to me how much Mobile Mommy benefitted their marriage. Another has told me, “I don’t know what I would do without Mobile Mommy.”
Advance Memphis: What makes Mobile Mommy different from other childcare options?
Ashley Gladney: Mobile Mommy is up close and personal. Mobile Mommy is also very convenient, and high quality. Most of my sitters are retired mothers and grandmothers, and a few are retired teachers and nurses. The quality of my sitters is different and stands out—they are experienced and educated.
Advance Memphis: Is there anything else you would want people to know about Mobile Mommy?
Ashley Gladney: Stay tuned because I plan to grow my business services to help specifically with college student parents soon.
Ashley has also recently been featured on Channel 13 News to talk about her business. You can watch her interviews here and here.
With consistent 5 star reviews on her business, Ashley has taken her heart for Children and transformed it into a thriving business. You can read testimonials about her company here .
We are excited to watch Ashley and Mobile Mommy continue to grow! If you are in need of personalized, high-quality child care, please contact Ashley by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 901-265-0631, or learn more on her website yourmobilemommy.com