The second annual Springfield News-Leader “Best of 2016 Photo Show” to benefit Harmony House Family Violence Prevention Center takes place during the March First Friday Art Walk, Friday March 3rd from 5:30 to 8:00pm upstairs at Springfield Brewing Company, 301-305 S. Market. “The News-Leader has a strong commitment, in our editorial agenda, to work with community partners to end domestic violence,” says Greg Holman of the News-Leader staff. “We have a great trio of staff photographers who do awesome work. It was a wonderful opportunity to blend that in with that editorial agenda. We have smaller prints (8” x 12”) that we’re going to sell for $15 apiece, and larger ones (16” x 24”) that are going to be sold at auction. So if you take those home, your purchase totally benefits Harmony House.”
The timing for this year’s fundraiser is especially appropriate, because Harmony House has just moved into their new headquarters near Battlefield and 65 in southeast Springfield. Felicia Rose, Harmony House’s Volunteer Coordinator, says that the new venue “is definitely much more designed for the purpose. So we’re able to have a much nicer space for the residents. The big thing that’s different between ‘now’ versus ‘then’ is that now it’s a place of healing, a place of rest. People can walk in the door and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can do this—this is a good place to be,’ rather than at our old location... that feeling was just not there.”
News-Leader Staff Photographer is one of three professional photojournalists on staff at the newspaper, and all of them have work represented—and for sale or auction—at this show. The others are Nathan Papes and Andrew Jansen. News-Leader reporters also take photos of the stories they cover for the paper, but as Greg Holman jokes, “Greg’s iPhone photos are NOT in this show! I can assure everybody, that’s a good thing!” There are ten photographs being offered in this benefit show for Harmony House, as selected by the paper’s three-person photo staff. Each photographer narrows down the photos they’ve taken the previous year to what Guillermo Hernandez Martinez says are “the best three or four that each person has. We consider what will be pleasing to people, as well as our favorites—the ones closest to our hearts.
“We’re really excited about it, we have really cool photos, and we’re very excited that every single dollar will go straight to Harmony House. We’re excited to be able to meet the community face to face, and show and talk about our work.” Hernandez Martinez says the photos include “a little bit of everything. There’s some sports; there are some that are just visually pleasing photos of a road. We have some lion cubs that are really cute. We also have a celebration of Veteran’s Day. We cover so many events around the community all year, so our photos run the gamut. We’ve been very lucky to have editors committed to hiring people who have visual talent.”
In addition to Springfield Brewing Company hosting the exhibit and sale/auction, Best of 2016 is sponsored by Bedford Photo and Video, who provided the prints of the photos for the show, and National Art Shop, which provided framing. “I just think it underscores the importance of this issue and the importance that Harmony House has in Springfield and the whole of Greene County, that people are willing to say, ‘We will help out, we will contribute, no matter what the cost to us,” adds Hernandez Martinez.
The first “Best of” show in 2016 raised over fifteen hundred dollars. Of course, they’re hoping this year’s event will raise even more money, because with Harmony House’s new facility comes new costs to the organization. For one thing, “our bed count grows with the new building,” says Felicia Rose. Harmony House is the only such domestic-violence facility in the area, but it’s also the oldest shelter of its kind in the state of Missouri. “And we are now actually the largest as well,” adds Rose. The only domestic-violence shelters of comparable size are in the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas. Harmony House was already the second-largest facility of its kind before they moved into the new facility. “So everybody who’s in our facility is in current danger of domestic violence. It’s not like they were dealing with it five years ago and today they’re just homeless. The situation is occurring right here, right now, and they could literally risk their lives if they choose to return home. And we don’t just shelter women anymore: we shelter men, and we shelter children—like a mom and her kids or a dad and his kids. So we’re expanding from 110, over the course of the next several months, to about 160 that we’ll be able to shelter.” It’s a rather sad reflection on our community that, as Felicia Rose says, “Greene County has one of the highest—if not the highest—rates of domestic violence per capita than anywhere else in the state. But the beautiful thing is that we have a community that says ‘this isn’t okay, we’re going to start taking action. And that’s one of the things the News-Leader does with us all the time. And it’s amazing.”
Adds Felicia Rose, “Harmony House does rely a great deal on donation dollars and on events like this. A lot of people think grants fund us. And they do fund a portion—but they don’t fund a majority (of what we do). So we do depend on these events quite a bit.”