This past weekend, Nov 19th and 20th 2016, the Austin Convention Center hosted Art from the Streets, a local nonprofit organization supporting homeless artists. Art from the Streets provides the homeless in Austin with a place to make art, and then display and sell it at an annual show and sale
Art from the Streets began in the 1980’s when co-founder Heloise Gold and her friends started volunteering at the Austin homeless shelter. They wanted to do something creative with the community so they started having art sessions, and then had their first show in 1991.
“There’s food and water,” Gold said. “And then there’s the expression that feeds our soul.”
Many of the artists at the convention share Gold’s belief about the essential role of art in life.
“When an artist produces art, he produces an idea of original nature,” John MacPherson, an artist at the show, said.
MacPherson was brought up in the Poconos Mountains, a relatively rural area that has influenced his focus as an artist. He now paints scenes, or stories as he describes it, of natural landscapes where he has been.
“I don’t use my hands to make my art,” MacPherson said. “What you see is an art of fact… my art is here [points to head].”
Every artist at the show and sale convention has been greatly affected by the Art from the Streets program. Hugh Miles is an artist in the organization who has helped himself by creating art, and he hopes to help others do the same.
“Everyone’s a product of their past, but you don’t have to be a slave to it today,” Miles said. “I can move forward, and encourage other people.”
Gold originally just wanted to make art, and to invite others to make art with the community. Eventually the participants and organizers started collecting the art and putting it up on their walls, and it occurred to them that they should have a show.
“I’ve got a talent and I need to use it,” Miles said. “As long as I hold onto the solution, then I can give it to others that have lost hope.”
The art at the show has many different mediums; Cathy Haynes does mostly finger painting and jewelry, some artists make sculptures, and most artists paint landscapes or portraits.
“This one call purely from recall, and then enhanced, and then just plain putting down color,” MacPherson said. “The sense of smell is obviously a part of the art, the sense of texture is part of the art, the sense of taste is part of the art.”
The art and the show have varying purposes in the artists’ lives. For most, the show is a source of income. For Miles, making art for the show is a way of expressing himself while helping others. Through creating art Miles has been able to develop a positive outlook on life.
“Life is full of choices: sometimes the choices we make don’t always bring the outcome we want, so we gotta think before we act,” Miles said. “Yesterday is gone, I focus on today, and I hope for tomorrow.”