Help the Homeless
Art from the Streets gives value and sustenance to area homeless
Dec 1, 2011 | 7:00 am
Heloise Gold and Beverly Bajema were simply handing out sandwiches at the homeless shelter for an hour a week. Or so they thought. During that time in the early 90s, the two women began getting to know some of the people who received assistance from the shelter and feeling their way into the culture.
Heloise, a dancer and artist, wanted to do something creative with the homeless population. "Creativity is a part of me that I love to share," she says. One day she and Beverly looked at each other and wondered, "Why not invite folks to come and start drawing together?"
From there, Heloise says, the creativity flowed. After a while, they had five artist volunteers in the program and the walls were full of art. "Some of it was really great," Heloise says—and that's when the lightbulb went off. "Let's have a show and see if we can have the larger community come onto the turf of the homeless folks, see the art and possibly buy it!"
The majority of homeless people are treated as if they don't exist; most of us turn away from this population rather than turn towards them. This was extraordinary for them and also for the general public.
Art from the Streets was thus born. AFTS is an annual show and sale that exhibits the homeless artists' works and offers them for sale to the public. It enables the artists to make money for food, basic necessities and, sometimes, a way to get off the streets. Attendees get a chance to see emerging artists, buy their work at reasonable prices and even meet the artists to talk about the pieces, as most artists are on-hand at the show.
The first Art from the Streets show was in 1993, selling $1,650 worth of work. "The homeless artists were being celebrated, recognized, compensated for their personal creations," Heloise says. "For most of them this had never happened before. The majority of homeless people are treated as if they don't exist; most of us turn away from this population rather than turn towards them. This was extraordinary for them and also for the general public." Many attendees walked away with their preconceived notions of the homeless completely shattered.
The show has grown steadily since, raising up to more than $80,000 annually in recent years and more than half a million dollars in its history—with all the proceeds going to the homeless artists who produced the works.
Ellen Marks, volunteer PR director for the show, says that in past years some have even made enough money for a full years' rent. Many of the artists have gotten off the streets after many years of being homeless and some, like Pat Bailey, Howard Cook and Jason Rogers have gotten commissions for their artwork due to the AFTS show.
"When you come to the sale, you can meet the artists and get the story behind the art—truly a one-of-a-kind piece that you can treasure," says Ellen. "Every time you look at it, it serves as a reminder of that particular artist and the impact you've had in their life," she says. "I'm always fascinated and amazed at the stories behind the art. The journeys of these artists are what truly make each piece special. I personally wanted to contribute because without the program, these artists might not have the opportunity to have a light shine on their incredible talent and vision."
Art from the Streets isn't just the Annual Show and Sale though, Ellen points out. The program and art classes that the show sprang from are still held year-round, and give the artists who are homeless a safe place and environment to create from their hearts.
"I am a believer in creating the right environment so people can discover their own self expression," Heloise says. "Therefore we simply encourage and support people to make art. We do not teach people what to do; we create a safe container so people can relax and enjoy themselves and each other. It's amazing what happens to human beings when we give ourselves a little support and encouragement."
The Art from the Streets show will be held December 3 and 4, from 11 am to 4 pm at St. David's Trinity Center at 7th and Trinity. For more information, go to artfromthestreets.com.