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Sharon masters the art of overcoming adversity


A University of Wolverhampton Fine Art graduate has scooped an award for mastering the art of overcoming adversity.

Sharon Powers, 48 from Blakenhall in Walsall, was nominated for a whg (Walsall Housing Group) ROCCs (Recognising Our Customers and Communities) Award in the category of Overcoming Adversity.

The award recognises a whg customer who has made it through tough times and turned things around for the better.  As a whg tenant, Sharon was nominated by a whg colleague.

Sharon left school with three O Levels and completed basic training in the Royal Air Force, studying for a BTEC in Natural Science, before pursuing a number of different education routes in an effort to upskill over a twenty year period, originally aspiring to be a nurse and then studying forensics.  Struggling to pass her English Language O Level, Sharon was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia but was determined to keep studying and although she always had a natural leaning towards science, she studied to be a make-up artist at Clydebank College.

Sharon got married and had two children, taking time off work to bring her daughters up while at the same time coping personally with an abusive relationship for ten years before making the difficult decision to leave her husband, uprooting herself from her home in Scotland and taking her children back to the Black Country.

“Art found me,” she said.  “I’d studied a lot, never quite finishing some courses and not achieving some of my goals because of things that happened to me along the way.  But when I left my marriage and came back to Walsall, I diverted my creativity which had been stimulated through studying on the make-up artist course.

“I studied a Foundation in Art & Design at Walsall College followed by a Higher National Certificate and Higher National Diploma in Fine Art and got distinctions.  By this time my eldest daughter, Hannah, was looking to go to University and I had always wanted to be the first person in my family to get a degree so I signed up for a degree course in Fine Art at the University of Wolverhampton.”

Sharon’s daughter, Hannah Spruce, 22 who lives in Coventry, was studying for a degree in Religious Studies and Sociology at the same time and mother and daughter both graduated in September 2018.  Sharon is now studying for a Master’s degree in Art & Design.

She said: “I lived for ten years in an abusive relationship with a man that I can only describe as a charming psychopath and it was a big decision to leave him.  But now I’m getting on with my life in a positive way. Studying has given me confidence.  Writing is still a challenge for me with my dyslexia but I’ve had so much help and support from the University, from Personal Tutors and lecturers, I couldn’t have done it without them.  The tutors really care and want you to succeed.

“Education is the most important thing in life – it’s always in the bank and you can withdraw it whenever you like.”

Sharon created a final piece of art work for the University’s Final Year Degree Show 2018 entitled ‘We are all reflections of our tomorrows…’, creating 4,989 origami butterflies – one for each day she was married, white ones to represent her abusive marriage and then multi-coloured ones to mark the day she left and the subsequent wait for her divorce to come through.

“Looking into what the Butterfly represented, I was drawn to the transforming nature of the butterfly. This led me to look back over my own artwork and see the transformations not only in my skills as an artist but also in the meanings behind my work. One of the main underlying themes I found was concept of therapy for domestic violence and the transformation in which I had gone through, to get to where I am today.                 

“Thinking back to where this transformation all began, I recalled a moment 12 years ago that stood out. During a group meeting at Women’s Aid I was once told that, “… are a victim of domestic violence……” At that moment I thought:  “No not me…” and that’s when I set out on a path of self-discovery - the fight to become a survivor, not just for me, but also for my daughters.” 

Sharon currently works as an Activities Co-ordinator at a nursing home working with dementia patients. Her ambition is to become a performance artist.

Sharon was one of ten winners at the ROCCs Awards and attended the ceremony which was held at The Stadium Suite of Banks’s Stadium in Walsall recently.

Following on from the ROCCs event Sharon is also working with whg to explore how her art can inform and influence other customers to raise their aspirations and reach their potential. Connie Jennings, whg’s Social Inclusion Manager, said: “Sharon is a real inspiration. We hope her story will inspire other customers to return to education and reach their often unknown potential. Our ROCCs award ceremony recognises our customers who are true heroes.”

Anyone interested in studying at the Wolverhampton School of Art should register for the next Open Day on Saturday 16th November 2019.

Picture Top: Sharon, centre, is pictured with her award with her daughters, Hannah, on the right and Jade on the left.

Picture Centre: Sharon with her work, Final ‘We are all reflections of our tomorrows…’



For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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