Have you ever been fortunate enough to meet an individual who is simply awe-inspiring?
The passion that they hold for their life’s work is palpable when in their presence, and you may just leave them changed somehow.
Sharon Jeffus is one of these people. Once met with her warm smile and intently gracious soul, you begin to ask yourself how you could emulate her spirit of giving, teaching and of inspiring others.
Born in Pennsylvania and raised in St. Louis, Sharon currently resides in beautiful Montauk State Park in Missouri, where she hosts art camps and retreats.
Her passion exudes from her when she says, “I want to train kids to give back. I want to be able to give the great feeling of creating something and having the basic elements of art.”
Sharon began by teaching in public and private schools where her concern for the lack of art in schools was actualized. The budget cuts against art in schools disturbed Sharon so she decided to supplement them.
It was in 1992, with her husband, Richard, that Sharon began her vision of teaching kids to give back through art, by traveling, selling books and teaching homeschoolers and students in private schools.
With a Christian-based faith and a deep desire to give back, Sharon and her husband began the non-profit organization Visual Manna.
The subsequent death of her husband following her father left Sharon seemingly broken.
However, life had a plan for her which wouldn’t be realized until eight difficult years later.
With a sense for change in her life, a move to Kansas City, Mo., and the assistance of an amazing board of directors, Sharon bravely began her non-profit Visual Manna Media and has never looked back.
Her accomplishments continue to grow along with her gracious spirit and include a list of more than 20 eBooks, a B.S.S.E. in art education from John Brown University and a certification to teach English from the University of Arkansas.
In addition, she has studied painting at Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colo., and sculpting at Southern Illinois University.
At the center of Visual Manna Media are the children who are lovingly referred to as “His lions” in honor of Sharon’s late husband. The lion symbolizes the strength and confidence that will be instilled in students through art.
Sharon’s vision is to give back to these children and young adults who are struggling in inner cities, who are disabled, and those who are experiencing difficulty learning or are creatively gifted.
There are several free lessons available along with a wealth of learning through online classes, compact discs, eBooks, Skype one-on-one instruction, art camps and retreats, convention workshops for adults, and teacher training camp.
Page 2 of 3 - Sharon also offers AP, advance art lessons and special needs art for K-12 via the Red Oak Academy online which can be contacted at www.roaschool.com.
Visual Manna’s art retreats are held at Montauk State Park. Those interested in hosting their own art retreat have this option as well, with the venue being in the home.
Instructors will provide the basics of art appreciation, techniques of charcoal, watercolor, pastels, sculpting, cartooning and other lessons. EBooks are included in the $25 fee per child and parents are welcome to participate at no charge. Families with two or more children only pay a $20 fee per child. Sharon is proud to say that prices reflect the downward slope of the economy.
Visual Manna has recently begun donating 10 percent of all proceeds from their work and services into scholarship funds for under-privileged and inner-city youth.
Sharon, along with her instructors and students, will also begin working with inner-city youth at Camp Penuel in Ironton.
With the instruction and guidance of Visual Manna, students are encouraged to create a digital portfolio which allows them to showcase their work, mentor, teach and obtain work as an artist or designer.
Bright and shining examples of Sharon’s vision and her instruction can be found in her students. Juliet Dunteman is one of these very special students.
An exceptionally gifted, articulate and completely endearing muralist, Juliet has been working closely with Sharon for the past three years. Originally from Kentucky, Juliet began working with Sharon after their initial meeting in Kansas City, Mo.
When asked how Sharon and Visual Manna have inspired her she responds ardently, “In many ways. Seeing the quality of my work and understanding why it’s quality and what has made it a good work of art. The encouragement of a career in art and learning to express myself and how to present myself are inspirations. Being affirmed and learning from her, you just grow super-fast and burst into life.”
Juliet hopes to support herself with her art as an accomplished muralist who loves working with kids. She is only one of many talented students who will be encouraged by the enthusiasm and altruistic approach that Visual Manna stands for.
Juliet also had this to say about the murals they have created in homeless areas, “When you can do something beautiful and inspirational in a place that’s dismal, that’s inspiring.”
When I leave Sharon and Juliet, I am overwhelmed by them and their ability to inspire people.
Sharon’s words linger with me leaving a beautiful sentiment, “My heart is with art and with people. When I’m gone, I want younger artists to carry this torch. We thank God for everything we get to do.”
Page 3 of 3 - Details on all of the lessons and services offered by Visual Manna Media can be found at their website, www.visualmanna.com, or you can email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The full art curriculum for Visual Manna is available for purchase on the Rainbow Resource Center’s website at www.rainbowresource.com.