Musicians perform at local residence dubbed “The Poorhouse”

Evan Holder (right), Union graduate, and Todd Whately, former Union student, add music to the colorful atmosphere of the living room in The Poorhouse. | Photo by Victoria Stargel

By Amanda Parrish

Polished wooden floors creak as feet shuffle back and forth. Soft lamplight falls on smiling faces and the hum of conversation echoes through open rooms. Old couches are pushed against the walls while wooden chairs are lined up, facing a handful of music stands, microphones and guitars. The comfortable, homey feel of friendship and music permeates the room.

The Poorhouse, as its residents have dubbed the old abode tucked away in a Jackson neighborhood, is home to more than just its four inhabitants. Over the last several months, The Poorhouse has welcomed dozens of new and old friends.

Since its official naming, The Poorhouse has invited musicians and guests to revel in one another’s company and appreciate good, quality music. In recent months, the residents of The Poorhouse have invited, housed and attended to the needs of several local and traveling musicians.

“The name of The Poorhouse implies a place of humility and nurtures a strong sense of hospitality and ease at which artists and musicians can perform and provide a different sort of platform,” said Evan Holder, six-month resident of the home and graduate of Union. “The home should be a comfortable place.”

For the residents, the vision of The Poorhouse cannot be defined in a five-step plan. For them, the genuine relationships and community fostered in their home is a part of life. It is perhaps a combination of those elements closest to their hearts. A genuine love of music intersects with a desire to support and encourage fellow musicians while inviting the surrounding Jackson population to meet and interact. The heart of The Poorhouse beats a steady rhythm for the Jackson community.

“We are trying to look at what are the really positive, enriching and robust aspects of Jackson,” said Andrew Norman, senior philosophy major. “They are here, you just have to have eyes to see it and a willingness to engage those things when you find them.”

The Poorhouse is a place for Union students and the Jackson community to intersect. In most instances, Norman said, Union students will not go to other Jackson music scenes to hear bands. On the other hand, most Jacksonites will not attend Barefoots concerts. The Poorhouse provides an alternative for these two groups.

“There are all kinds of characters and folks who are amazing, beautiful and wonderful people who can enrich our lives and enrich each other’s lives,” Norman said. “We don’t want it to be Union versus the community.”

Not only are Jackson residents given the opportunity to intersect, but the performing musicians are also able to build relationships with their audience. In the home, musicians are given a room to rest for a night, food to eat and time to enjoy their audience.

As Norman said, the line between musician and audience is blurred. Personal conversations begin, and lasting relationships often leave marks in the hearts and minds of all attending. Far from being consciously intentional about fostering community, it is often “something that happens by accident” when musicians are connected to their communities and to each other.

For the sake of enjoying quality music, refreshing traveling musicians and encouraging relationships and artistic appreciation in the Jackson area, The Poorhouse strives to incorporate all elements into the heart of life.

“You can change the community and the way people view themselves,” Holder said. “Giving their kids something positive to look up to.

“It’s not just about music, it’s part of a bigger initiative I feel is what we need to be. There is a definite need to try and rehabilitate. There is a constant need for renewal.”

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.