NIAD is grateful for the love and support of our volunteers. They can play a big role throughout our organization and while we do privately recognize their service, it’s wonderful to see the community at large take notice. We’re very happy to announce that longtime volunteer John Kendrick has been recognized with a Richmond Cities of Service Volunteer Award.
John Kendrick came to NIAD in 2007 to volunteer as he was recovering from the stroke that ended his active work career, with the idea that giving and sharing are healing gestures. After his stroke, the art he had made all his life came more into focus – he hoped that immersing himself in a lively environment where art-making was the primary work might spark his own return to creativity. Within a couple weeks of coming to NIAD, he had formed a strong bond with Billy White.
John sits beside Billy, helps him find brushes, supplies, paper or paint. If asked, John discusses creative options with him. Billy’s art fascinates John and Billy’s garrulous, generous, story-telling personality matched John’s own. Billy needs help focusing on his work, and he badly needed someone to listen.
John understands Billy’s drive to make pictures and stories and has the patience to sit with Billy while he works, listening to the stories, laughing at the jokes, while redirecting attention back to the art. Billy (who does not have the use of his right hand) refers to John as “my right-hand man!”
Billy White had been accustomed to a great deal of mobility – most of his life he had wandered the streets, meeting people, panhandling, drawing what he saw and telling stories. He had a hundred “cousins” and “sisters” and “brothers” all over the Bay Area.
He frequently and fearlessly got lost riding BART to other cities and walking into unfamiliar areas, and he counted on the police picking him up to get a ride home. It was extremely dangerous, and when he was moved into a group home one of the conditions was that he not go out alone.
The restrictions placed on Billy to keep him safe were seriously disturbing his sense of autonomy, dignity and competence. John Kendrick stretched the boundaries of his volunteer assignment to go out with Billy, wherever Billy wanted to go, at least once a week for lunch. With John there for him, Billy’s work took on a deeper quality, he produced more work, and was happier, more secure in himself.
John Kendrick has lived in Richmond for many years. He has given NIAD approximately 400 hours a year for 5 years now, and shows no signs of flagging. He comes to NIAD for Billy and the rest of us, quietly offering a steady kindness and a fierce belief in art as a calling of truth, accessible to anyone.
In the studio he participates in our NIAD community projects and celebrations, offering support and keeping an eye on everyone so no one gets lost, left behind, or forgotten. During that time he has gone through personal loss, illness, and the deaths of his very close sister and his dog, but he has shown up faithfully, two days a week, through it all.
There are many outstanding volunteers contributing at various levels to the community life of NIAD, but truly it is those who contribute the basic glue of life, the person-to-person connections, who create a sense of community in the first place. If John Kendrick hadn’t shown up for Billy White, Billy’s depression would have deprived NIAD of one of its defining artists. Sometimes, being the right man in the right place at the right time, with an unending supply of patience and generosity of spirit is what it takes to make a community what it can be.