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The Artists of Heartside Gallery and Studio-- Denis Burkett

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

After significant setbacks, Heartside artist Denis Burkett picks up writing again.

/Heartside Gallery and Studio

Underwriting support from:

/Heartside Gallery and Studio

'Fly your own flag', by Denis Burkett

'Fly your own flag', by Denis Burkett /Heartside Gallery and Studio

Our featured artist for April is Denis Burkett


Here's a little bit about the artist in his own words:


‘Never in a million years would I have ever thought I'd be doing artwork and writing again; at Heartside of all places! Back in the 70’s I was up in Traverse City going to college. One night my friends and I were hanging out, and a man came in and shot into the room, with one bullet hitting me in the head (he was later arrested for multiple crimes). Later that year, I was in a bad car accident and went through a car window, sustaining further head injuries. After much rehab, I finished my degree and began to look for work! 

Starting in 2000, I was a disability advocate at a center in Muskegon. After 9-11 we lost the funding for my position and I had to look for new work. I then came to GR because of my new job at a call center that was owned by Chicago Sun Times. In 2004, my first seven days in Grand Rapids started in the hospital: When looking for my first apartment in GR, I was violently attacked and stabbed by some young drunk fool who had just been thrown out of a bar. Someone passing by saw me and got me to the hospital. I was out of work for months, going to physical rehabilitation, crisis management, and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) counseling.

After I recuperated, I worked as a painter and repair person, a marketing representative, a healthcare aide and did anything I could to get by. I even worked for an event company doing tours at venues nationwide with shows like Kid Rock, Lil Wayne, American Idol, Metallica and many more. At the end of the 2010 Kid Rock tour at Pine Knob I had to have surgery and my gig was up! I told my friends; "work brought me here and now the river keeps me here!" Everything that I used to do before, I can’t do now- my back hurts me, my hands ache, and I can’t do work effectively with my disabilities. I face a lot of limitations today with the injuries I have sustained. Even my instincts aren’t what they used to be.

But now I have another couple of reasons (at least) to build on what I have started. I began writing again for the first time since 1996! I credit God for showing me Heartside. They helped me get my prescriptions and also Disability Compensation and Section 8. I was denied medical assistance for quite sometime, and that is still a struggle.   

I am blessed to be able to do my artwork and tell my stories here at Heartside; it's a labor of love. Every month I contribute to 'Spoon,' a Heartside newspaper, and attend Heartside Writers Group every Monday. I have many pictures that I created because of the Heartside Gallery. I also have written about 500 poems… Not bad for a person who thought he could never write again."


The Miracle

I’m still here and that’s a miracle

And the reason for the story

Unusual and yet in some ways typical

The mean streets, the cold nights

There’s no jobs, no futures

And the homeless live through the twilight.

Out in the streets

And at the shelters

Where we live in the city

Is still just short of miracles.

So don’t give up

And don't give in

God is in the streets

And Jesus is near.

Where we live is where we meet

For the message from Heartside rings clear

There’s a miracle everyday

For the people at Heartside facing change.

We’re still here against all odds

We’re the world of Heartside under God

For those who came before us

And those yet to arrive

It’s just another miracle in our struggle to survive.

Here at Heartside the winter is fading

When spring comes alive, the seasons are changing

It’s the miracle of life.



The Artists of Heartside Gallery and Studio is a monthly feature to highlight some of the wonderful people of the Heartside neighborhood. Visit and Facebook to keep up with us, to learn about volunteering and other ways to get involved.

Sarah Scott is Arts Coordinator for Heartside Gallery and Studio at Heartside Ministry, and can be reached at [email protected]

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