By Laura Riggs
When Hope McMath founded the Yellow House in 2017, it was with the intention to create a space for artists to connect with the community, where empathy is inspired and civic engagement is sparked. Five years later, that mission remains very much the same, but how it has manifested has been full of surprises. Although connecting wellness and the arts has been a part of Hope’s lifelong practice, this was not necessarily at the center of Yellow House’s mission. Yet, community care is very much an integral part of Yellow House’s work. From being engaged with recovery efforts in the Ken Knight Drive community after Hurricane Irma (which began only weeks after they opened) to trading labor and art for fresh food for their neighbors, Yellow House continues to evolve to meet the needs of their neighbors and the broader Jacksonville community.
Whether supporting BIPOC and queer artists and poets, engaging in the reckoning and reconciliation around the legacy of lynching in Jacksonville, or simply giving people a place of respite, the intersection of culture and public health has become a large part of Yellow House’s work. Hope credits this merging of worlds to the partnerships built with Mayo Clinic, UF Center for Arts in Medicine, Amplifier, mutual aid groups, and the artists
and writers whose works focus on health, safety, and historical disparities in care. Yellow House coalesces the lived experience of these artists with the interdependent relationship between self and community in its latest exhibition, “BE WELL.” Informed by gender, ethnicity, race, illness, disability, and circumstance, eight artists explore the conditions that support or hinder our well-being through painting, posters, political cartoons, and poetry.
There is no denying that the pandemic has impacted us individually and collectively; being closed for more than a year due to COVID-19 was incredibly difficult. Like so many, Yellow House found new ways to have an impact despite the closure of its physical space. It took a lot of creativity, hard work, and generous gestures by volunteers, partners, and supporters inside and outside the city who helped see the organization past its most challenging days. Alternate Roots and the Southern Power Fund not only helped them hang on to the Yellow House but provided the funding needed to share artists’ work virtually and in nearby neighborhoods. Hundreds of supporters who sent anywhere from $5 to $50 provided the affirmation of Yellow House’s purpose to not only survive but to feed their neighbors, create public works of art, provide space for our collective grief, and help plan for the future.