Lilly still remembers what it felt like to be away from home and out of place. Her father took a job in Ecuador when she was in elementary school, moving their whole family to Central America. Looking out the window of the car as she made her way to a new school in a new country, nothing was familiar and everything felt a bit confusing. “It was a positive experience overall, but I still experienced culture shock,” Lilly admitted. These memories now connect her to people who are away from home and out of place in her own city – refugees who now find a home in Dallas.
With degrees in Public Relations and Art History from Texas Tech, Lilly’s latest passion project fits neatly into her skill set. Lilly, along with her husband Markus and a team of supporters, is hosting the second annual Bold Strokes Silent Art Auction and Market, with all proceeds supporting Heart House Dallas. Lilly first learned of Heart House in 2017 when her church, Northhaven United Methodist, was looking for a speaker to lead a conversation about refugees and the federal travel ban. “My mother told me about about Lenita Dunlap, CEO at Heart House, and Lenita came to our church the same day I called her,” said Lilly. “I immediately felt connected to her and could tell she was doing something different in the community.”
Heart House is certainly doing something different. With a mission to provide safety, education and opportunity to refugee and underprivileged children, the team at Heart House is focused on creating interventions and support services that move students from chaos to calm. Their programs also use art classes to help children to express themselves and increase their social and emotional learning capacity.
This year’s Bold Strokes event includes artists and artisans from around the city who want to make an impact and give back. While some individual pieces of art will be available for auction, the main focus on the event is the market featuring handmade and ethically made goods from vendors like GAIA Empowered Women, Carrie Song Art, and Symbology Clothing. “Artists have so much empathy and want to contribute in a creative way,” said Lilly. With that in mind, she created the Bold Strokes event to be beneficial not only to Heart House and their mission, but also to the artists and makers who are giving their time and passion for the cause.
Beyond planning Bold Strokes, Lilly’s day-to-day experience is full of artists as a Gallery Associate at Erin Cluley Gallery, where she oversees marketing and events. She also pulls vision for Bold Strokes from her time as a Communications Manager for the American Red Cross of North Texas, but Lilly’s true inspiration comes from her parents. “My mom and dad were the original side hustlers,” Lilly said with a grin. “My dad produced concerts and my mom would help him put the events together. Now my mom is involved with Social Venture Partners and loves connecting philanthropists and nonprofits here in Dallas.”
On the evening of November 17th, the Bold Strokes Silent Art Auction and Market will kick off the holiday giving season and shine light on the experience of refugee children in the Dallas area. Lilly finds tremendous purpose not only in the cause, but also in the act of giving back with her family for other families. If you are interested in attending the Bold Strokes event or learning more about how Heart House is bringing transformation to refugee communities in Dallas, please visit the Heart House website.
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Story by Mary Martin. Photos by Hunter Lacey.