We had the good fortune of connecting with Carmen Overton and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Carmen, how does your business help the community?
Clement Arts uses the cross-section of art and faith to make a difference in the lives of adoptive and foster families. Creative experiences like concerts, art shows, classes and workshops create a fun and easy avenue for anyone to get involved in orphan care. Proceeds from events are used to provide grants to families who are adopting (even domestic adoption can cost upwards of $30,000). Funds are also used to meet the tangible needs of local children in foster care or who are at high-risk of being placed in foster care. No child should be removed from his or her home due to lack of resources. The simple act of providing a bed can keep a family intact. I love that what we are doing is showcasing amazingly talented artists, giving them the platform to use their gifts for social good, and making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children. “Clement” means mercy, and the arts provide a beautiful means of mercy.

The connection between the arts and orphan care may not be immediately evident, but if you think about it, artists are uniquely gifted to tell this story. Artists understand that beauty often comes from brokeness. Making a masterpiece is messy work whether you are painting, composing, or opening your home to a child. Artists are able to help people see the world from a new perspective, which is a valuable asset in orphan care. Not everyone is called to adopt or be a foster parent, but for those of us who are Christians, we are called to take care of orphans. Whether by purchasing a ticket, enrolling your child in ballet, or taking a meal to a foster family, our goal is to create simple pathways that encourage everyone to get involved. Different brush strokes, different paint colors, different textures come together on a canvas to create a whole picture. People from different parts of town, different backgrounds, different giftings come together to create wholeness for a child.

One of my favorite things about Clement Arts is that we are able to engage people from all over the community to work together towards a common goal of helping children. People who may have lived in the same town their whole lives but otherwise would never meet are now collaborating together to help a family. Just one example is from last spring just as the pandemic was beginning. We were contacted by the Department of Family and Children Services asking if we could help a family in transition. The mom was trying her best, but her 6 children were at risk of needing to be placed in foster care because she was struggling to meet their physical needs. This is a brave mother who removed herself and her children from a dangerous situation. She loves her children, and she just needed a little support. We were able to bring together volunteers from 5 of our partner churches. They divided up the rooms of her house and took care of making sure she had essential items. They showed up to help her move in to her new home, assembled furniture, played with children, stocked her pantry, and left her and her children with a hot meal. One year later, people still call to check on her, still bring her occasional meals, and cheer her on as she raises her children. We currently have about 30 church partners and hundreds of volunteers who come from different denominations and worship in different ways, but they understand that we can accomplish so much more when we work together. The outcomes are exponential. We can make such a difference in people’s lives and in our community by putting aside differences and working together. I am beyond blessed to get to see this happening every day.

We recite what we call the “Clement Creed” in our art classes for children. The creed says, “Because God made me, I am valuable; I am beautiful. Because He made me a maker, I can bring value; I can add beauty.” That’s what Clement Arts is all about. We want everyone to know that they can do something beautiful.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Looking back, I can clearly trace the exact path that led me to a grassroots organization that combines arts and orphan care. Although the path leading to this wasn’t apparent as I was travelling it, I can see now how God was guiding every step.

I’ve spent my entire career in the non-profit field. I began by working in direct care for youth in residential therapy and group homes before moving into leadership positions. I served as the director of Right from the Start, a marriage and family initiative, and eventually transitioned into fundraising as the Development Director for the Pastoral Institute, a mental health counseling and education center. After spending a decade working in the behavioral health field, I was ready to explore a different sector. I spent three years as the Director of Development for The Columbus Museum. The Museum is where I gained a love of the arts and an understanding of the powerful ability of the arts to bring people together and impact the world for good.

In 2019, I was having a discussion with a student from Columbus State University who I had been dialoguing with about leadership over the course of the semester. The final question she asked me was, “If you could be doing anything right now, is this what you would be doing?” I had just spent the semester telling this student how much I loved my job (which was true), but as soon as she asked me that question, I felt a sinking in my stomach and my eyes teared up. I had no idea what was happening, but I responded, “No. If I could be doing anything right now it would be helping children find forever homes. Let me tell you about this great organization I volunteer with called Clement Arts.” Not even a week later, out of the blue, I received a phone call from the founder. He told me that it was time for him to take a step back, and he wanted me to consider taking over the reigns. I never dreamed that my past experiences would’ve merged together so well for this role!

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There are so many great places in and around Columbus. This past year though, like many, I’ve been more hunkered down at home. One of my pandemic projects was to get in my kitchen more. I love cooking with fresh local products, and one of the things I discovered is that there is a plethora of amazing local farms. I subscribe to a seasonal CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from Jenny Jack Farm in Pine Mountain. I also get a monthly delivery of organic, pasture-raised beef, chicken, and pork from Turntime Farms in Ellerslie. I recently learned about Bugg Family Farm in Pine Mountain that has existed since the 1800s. I’ve made lots of local trips to pick strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkins. There are several local farmers markets to hit up, especially the Mercy Med market that helps provide more affordable and nutritious food to people living in a “food desert” in the community. Eating what is in season and what is available locally has really anchored me to place and helped me to appreciate the rich resources all around me.

The slower pace of the last year has also allowed the opportunity to pay attention to some things in Columbus that are hidden in plain sight. Thanks to a school assignment given to my daughter, I spent a couple of afternoons exploring the Black Heritage Trail. I couldn’t believe all that I learned by intentionally paying attention to what was around me. There is beautiful architectural pieces and incredible stories of people that I had driven past sometimes daily but never noticed. I would definitely recommend spending an afternoon to check out the trail. While you are exploring the Black Heritage Trail, you will get to see some of the cool public art as a bonus! If it happens to be Wednesday, join me at the Rotary Club of Columbus, one of the largest and oldest Rotary clubs in the world.

There are great museums in Columbus that are definitely worth a visit. The Columbus Museum is free and has a great permanent collection of art and history as well as several special exhibitions throughout the year. The National Infantry Museum is ranked one of the best free museums in the country. The National Civil War Naval Museum presents a unique historical narrative. The Bartlett Center at Columbus State University showcases contemporary art and also has student work on view. I’m always so impressed to see the quality of the emerging artists being developed in our city. If you want to support local artists, check out Highland Gallerie on 2nd Avenue. This is a non-profit gallery and studio that unites artists for the purpose of community art and development, and 100% of the proceeds goes towards community revitalization and development.

After you shop at the Highland Gallerie, you can go down the street for lunch at The Food Mill. Not only will you get a fabulous meal sourced from local farms, but the Food Mill is a non-profit that exists to eliminate barriers to food insecurity in the community. Maybe after that you can check out a concert hosted by Clement Arts!

I hope that you can see that I am passionate about supporting local initiatives that are making our community better. The spirit of collaboration in Columbus is strong! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to shoutout to the amazing people who are creating forever homes for children through adoption and foster care. Although they are heroes in my eyes, I know they would never accept that title, so I will call them artists because they know that it takes creativity to calm the storms swirling in young lives. They know that the best things can come from the biggest messes. They know that there is beauty in belonging.

Website: www.clement-arts.org

Instagram: clement_arts

Facebook: @clementartsga

Image Credits
Carmen’s headshot image credit: Lantern Vision

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