Steph Limage: Putting Art into Action

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SEEKING EVE MONDAY

Sometimes seeking + finding requires stepping out of the game.

By Christina Crook

Once a Yaletown-dwelling sophisticate, Steph Limage was known to frequent local Vancouver hotspot, Chill Winston, to “eat appies and look pretty,” the former IT consultant confesses. It was this same public house where she felt God lead her to begin declaring a new kind of future, for herself and the low-income residents of the downtown core where she lived.

“I was living in this fancy loft and had a fancy motorbike, but I had no one to see my fanciness; no friends. God prompted me to stay home one weekend and paint with him. It was the first and only time I had painted a picture of Christ, and it was then God began to speak to me about an arts ministry that would bless the poor.”

The Nehemiah Foundation was soon born.

Art and Giving

Since 2008, the non-profit has acted as a springboard for various Art initiatives around the city of Vancouver, as well as international projects, particularly in Haiti, where Limage now lives with her music producer husband, David.

Three years ago, Limage founded Help Portrait Vancouver, an annual initiative based on a simple concept: find someone in need, take their portrait, print and deliver it to them.

Little is much to those who have little.

Each volunteer photographer sees and listens to each woman, man and child, saying “You’re worthy” through the lens of a timeless photograph. Last year, the Help Portrait team entered the terminal ward at BC Children’s Hospital. Here, volunteer make-up artists, hair stylists and professional photographers–some who shoot regularly for the Canucks and Mercedes-Benz–took portraits of the children, free of their beds and tubes, with their families. For many, this would be their last family photograph.

“Privacy is huge to me. Everything is screened. We never leak photos or share them online. If we do this, then we are not really giving,” explains Limage.

The event is an unprecedented opportunity for photographers of all stripes to truly give because they can’t promote their work or share the photos they’ve taken.

The Underdog’s Story

Help Portrait is but one arm of the multi-faceted work of Steph Limage, who is no stranger to a life of poverty. Upon moving from her hometown of East Selkirk, Manitoba, Limage lived in a homeless shelter in Burnaby (a transition house that happened to be Christian) until she could get on social assistance. She’d been in government care as a teen because she “was naughty,” says Limage. She’s quick to add that it wasn’t her parents that caused her to act out.

It was this time in life that would shape her work to come.

The purpose of the Nehemiah Foundation is to provide opportunities for “the ‘underdog’ artists of the world”–those living on the margins or suffering from the bondage of addiction or other socio-economic barriers — by acknowledging, developing and promoting their work. In plain terms, Limage is looking to lift up the lowly, to bring dignity and hope to the lost and broken, by whatever means she can. It’s arts in action.

Today Limage’s focus is on music, particularly producing the sounds she discovers in the tent cities near her house. She traveled to Haiti after the devastating earthquakes, carrying with her as much as she could give away. She met David and stayed. When they first met, he was sleeping in the back of a church. The orphaned son of pastors, he had lost everything–his recording studio and home–in the earthquake.

Together, they see a different future for the displaced in Port-Au-Prince and downtown Vancouver–a hopeful one.

“I buy my food from the tent cities. We are with the poor every single day. We have discovered amazing artists and want to help them tell their story and share their music with the world.”

In her own words:

Faith to me means giving, loving the unloved and forgotten …

Faith means giving all I am and all that I have. You know the story of the guys who were given the talents in the Bible? Well, I know I have been given many talents and sometimes they surprise me … I spend my time giving my time, my heart, my money, my possessions away to those around me knowing it will be replaced because it was never mine to keep in the first place.

I look around and see many women striving to get to the top, having this hefty public image to maintain, saying the right things on social media, holding back to obtain approval from the masses, but that’s not me … My whole life I have been the underdog and only know how to be 100% authentic in all I do.

Faith to me means listening to God and acting on the visions He places in my heart … Sometimes it’s too much to handle and I break down and cry like a baby and hand it back to him so he can pick up the load.

Faith to me means spending time with God in my own way. A lot of the time that means singing to Him in my home, but I also simply talk and walk with Him each day as if He were next to my side… God has asked me to do some pretty difficult things over the years, but always comes through. He has asked me three times so far to give up all I have and follow him to strange lands and new cultures. Faith to me means following Isaiah 58 the whole way or else God benches me and I have to watch the game from the sidelines until I decide to cooperate.

Faith to me is stepping into the unknown and hoping God catches me on the other side, trusting it was His voice that led me there to accomplish what seems impossible. Faith to me is getting the most unlikely people collaborating on projects to accomplish a greater goal.

When I was little I … always knew I was different and was supposed to do something important but never could figure out what it was. I had a hard time making friends; I was a bit of a geek until my teens. During my youth, I was often alone and spent a lot of time on my father’s land in rural Manitoba. I could walk in fields for miles and never encounter another human. During those early years, I used to test God — asking Him to prove Himself — which now, looking back, I see He did many times. I have always been an artist and my parents have always been very supportive of my creativity. Without my art, I think I may have gone mad by now because my desire to express is so intense at times.

My days are filled with … logistics and caring for the poor in Haiti. I also do a lot of freelance social media, web-development, production (film and music), photography, and recently became the Creative Director of Haiti’s leading ad agency.

I wish … I had a few million dollars to build some apartments for my friends who live in tents here in Haiti. I wish I could have housing built on our land here so the homeless youth of Haiti could have somewhere to go. I wish it wasn’t so hard to try to engage with people in North America on social issues and bringing awareness to human suffering. I wish people would give up a few trips to Starbucks to help feed and house the orphans of Haiti, even if they already sponsor a child in another country. I wish I didn’t have to document human suffering and showcase it just to get some meals for my friends who have nothing. I wish more people understood what it means to relinquish all they have so they could really experience the Gospel. Jesus was never popular so I don’t expect to be either. Expect maybe with my Father in heaven, and my husband. 🙂

Today I give myself permission … to watch movies and rest. Then I will venture out with my husband to 4×4 up and down a mountain, get some ice-cream and listen to the lizards and creatures of the night in this tropical island I now call home.

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Missions teams are invited to Port-Au-Prince to help build an Arts Training Centre which would act as a hub for the Nehemiah Foundation. Here teams would help rebuild part of a damaged wall that surrounds their land, build the centre, clear the land, help and learn to install water filtration systems, help with local food distribution, and engage in arts outreach, including the creation of a community-based mural.

For more information, visit: https://nehemiahvancity.com/missions/.

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About Christina: 

Christina is a Toronto-based writer whose articles on culture, religion and technology have appeared in Vancouver, UPPERCASE and Geez magazine. When not reading, mucking with paper, or penning poetry on the backs of napkins, she is exploring the world alongside two little marvels: Madeleine and Thomas. She is founder of SeekingEve.ca and blogs at www.christinacrook.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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