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Alexandria’s HEARD: Jane Collins Brings Art to the Marginalized

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Jane Collins, executive director of the non-profit organization Heard, has shown her ability to glean insight into others through her interviews with many Alexandrians in the non-profit sector for Z TV (the video division of The Zebra Press) and her 10 Questions segment. On October 7th, it was Collins’s turn in the hot seat with Z TV Producer Susan Mulligan Fleischman mixing things up by asking random questions out of a fish bowl.


Collins founded the organization Heard to contract with local artists to teach creativity and art-based life skills to a variety of marginalized adults. The organization serves immigrants, the incarcerated, those transitioning from homelessness, members of the LGBTA community, survivors of domestic violence, and those in recovery.

A thank you note received recently from one of the people helped by the HEARD program. (Photo: HEARD)

The program, is for “any adult that doesn’t have a voice or isn’t always heard. And to hear the stuff they say,” according to Collins. “It’s like ‘you’ve changed my life. You’ve given me self-confidence I never thought I had.”

It’s All About Supporting Artists

When Fleischman pointed out all the new art that she’s been seeing on Collins’s Facebook page, Heard mentioned that a lot of the recent work is from the third annual writing contest held with the Arlington Detention Center and the non-profit organization Offender Aid and Restoration. The Poet Laureate from Arlington and professors from Marymount served as judges and Heard put up the cash prizes.

The other side of the equation for Heard is to support artists and to encourage recognition for the value in their work. All artists get paid fair compensation for their work.

Her impetus was going through a childhood in which her mom was undervalued for her work.

“Growing up, I would watch her, create a beautiful original creative painting and put it up for sale at, you know, a local art show or something, and price it very reasonably because mom always believed art should be affordable….but people, even people with means would look at her price and slash it by half, and it would make my mom so sad,” said Collins.

“It’s insulting,” agreed Flesichman.

“Do you talk to your lawyer or your accountant and say ‘800? No I’ll give you 400’? No, you don’t do that,” said Collins.

How to Make a Difference With Little Impact

In addition to her mom, Jane had a father who was creative with his charitable donations. He asked his Archdiocese in Cincinnati to find him the poorest village in the Western Hemisphere. When he found the village in Haiti, he called a nun there and gave them 1% of his lumber mill’s profits annually. Within a couple years the town had running water.

“It showed me one person can make a huge difference. Number two, it doesn’t take a lot of money to be incredibly helpful. Number three, it showed the joy and fulfillment it bought to my dad,” said Collins.

Collins is proud of the fact that like her dad she makes a big impact with a small budget.

The L.O.C.A.L Method

When Collins and Fleischman spoke she was preparing to participate in a virtual panel the next day for the Tom Tom foundation with a librarian in New York and the first lady of Mississippi about the impact her organization has had.

While virtual events haven’t been the same as the in-person programs, Collins has taken advantage of the greater reach. She hopes to distribute a one-sheet pamphlet that summarizes her methods so that others might use them.

Jane Collins created this graphic to show how to become a non-profit organization in five easy steps. (Image: HEARD)“In a very simplistic way, these are the five steps I took to start Heard and these are five steps I took to start Heard and I want to see organizations and communities across the U.S. using artists, paying them I hope, using local artists with local funds to solve local needs.”

She advises people to be flexible. Heard started out with just writing but they added improvisation, poetry, visual art, etiquette, public speaking, and dance.

“You don’t have to be huge, you don’t have to change the world, just be as big or as small as you want,” said Collins.

Collins works as a communications and marketing consultant and still finds time to play tennis, travel, care for her mom, husband and step family. She tries to delegate enough so that she can attend to the organization’s needs while she was on vacation.

“You really make it sound so easy,” said Fleischman.

“Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t,” replied Collins.

When asked what was next, Collins said she was going to take a nap. In all seriousness, she wants to promote her model to different organizations while maintaining a work-life balance.

Jane Collins
Jane Hess Collins (Courtesy photo)

The Fish Bowl Round

Among the more off-beat things we learned about Jane in the lightning round:

-She was in the Air Force and retired as a Colonel.

-She loves to binge on the tv shows “Sex and the City” and “Law and the Order: SVU.”

-Her favorite couch-side snack is Ben and Jerry’s and her favorite flavor is New York Superfudge Chunk.

-She is teaching herself to play guitar again. The interview was the day before her first lesson.

-When she was little, her career aspiration was to be an actor. She even got a speaking small part in the HBO series “Veep”.

RELATED: Jane Collins to Speak at  Tom Tom Foundation Summit




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