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Spiva Center for the Arts Joplin MO


January 9 – March 13, 2021

Journey: Legacy, East Town


East Town is an exhibition curated in a mixture of textiles, with a variety of narratives
and poems designed to engage the viewer in a visual conversation.

My family has been an integral part of the fabric of the community of Joplin for well over
100 years. It is the birthplace of my father, siblings, relatives, and friends. This collection
is a touchstone of accounts, experiences, and contributions of Joplin’s East Town. It
shares a people’s journey, facing the hardships and adversities of building a viable
community during a time when African Americans were not welcomed to live in or
around Missouri and its surrounding areas. These textiles share some of the inner-
linkings of the place I called home.

East Town is Joplin, a gift that was realized by those who were denied the right to live
their lives in peace and harmony in surrounding towns. The African American residents
of Joplin persevered through all adversities. They used their talents, gifts, and education
to build a strong and vibrant community in spite of all the challenges that besieged
them. The ordinary individuals of East Town charted a course for their lives and built an
extraordinary community that became a magical place for all children of the area. We
are all the legacy of their gifts.

The people of the Joplin community gave all they had to create what is still being shared
by those who were privileged to have experienced growing up here.
We benefited immensely from the gifts established by people that understood how to
open their arms in trust, in acceptance of one another, and to implement the power of
strength, faith, and love to one and all. 
I am humbled and forever grateful for the East Town community’s sacrifices and
abundant love!
It is my hope that each person viewing this collection takes something positive away from
this extraordinary exhibition.Thank you to thank the sponsors for their incredible unwavering support, the Spiva Board of
Directors, Administration, Exhibition director, the art center staff and Spiva volunteers.

-Artist, Sara Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin





“Celebrate the creative experience – be a community catalyst.”