Artwork highlights a People’s History in Grand Rapids – Print #5 – Marian Clements, founder of Well House

This past semester, art students in Brett Colley’s class on printmaking, invited me to come talk about the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. The intent of the class was to have students investigate their own part of a People’s History of Grand Rapids and then make a print based upon an individual, social movement or a particular moment in history.TannirC.Poster.2016

What we will be sharing from here on out over the next several weeks, are the result of what these students created, based on their own investigation or based on previous posting from the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. We are excited to have these newly created visuals to compliment the rich history of social movements from the resistance to white settler colonialism all the way up to the present.

The fifth print we feature is from Courtney Tannir. This print was inspired by the incredible witness and work of Marian Clements, the founder of Well House. Clements, who grew up in West Michigan, had struggled with mental health for much of her life. Marian was even institutionalized at one point, but eventually came to stay at a Quaker-run house in Grand Rapids that practiced what they called “radical hospitality.”

Radical hospitality is different from most homeless shelter work, where people opened their homes to people experiencing homelessness and allowed people to stay as long as they needed. People might stay just a few days, several months, or sometimes they became community members.

The house that Marian started in 1979 was purchased for just a few hundred dollars. The focus of the house was not only radical hospitality, but simple living and a deep commitment to non-violent activism. Eventually, Marian acquired a second house in the neighborhood and then a third, before she was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1997. Well House continues to work with those experiencing homelessness today. 


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