Art from the Streets marks quarter plus century of service

Anna-Kay Reeves

People’s contact with the homeless is generally limited to a handful of change and pocket lint. But most often what the homeless get is rolled-up windows and
averted eyes.

Art from the Streets aims to change that. The annual showcase features artwork by individuals affected by homelessness, much of which is created in a free open studio organized by the organization. The showcase allows artists to sell their work and deconstruct the stigma around homelessness.

“People crave acknowledgment,” said Art from the Streets co-founder Heloise Gold. “It’s something very human, to want to be seen, and (Art from the Streets) gives these people that are often ignored a place to be seen.”

Gold began the Art from the Streets art showcase with friends in the early ‘90s after passing out sandwiches weekly to the homeless. She wanted to do something to impact the homeless population on a level that went beyond
physical needs.

“I’m a performance artist, so I appreciate the impact being creative has,” Gold said. “I wanted to do something that would allow the homeless population to experience that.”

Gold said the most meaningful thing each year is seeing those who attend the event realize homelessness goes beyond the stereotypes.

With art work ranging from street scenes to abstract, the work tells not only the story of homelessness, but the story of people experiencing the world just like everyone else,
Gold said.

“This art isn’t limited to homeless art or prison art, which is what is expected,” Gold said. “But they see what these individuals create and are blown away by the talent and reliability of it.”

Kelley Worden, executive director of the organization, said community is another major impact of the showcase.

“We have an open studio three times a week at the Trinity Center at St. David’s Episcopal Church where we invite these individuals to create,” Worden said.

According to Worden, the open studio is not only for those who have always identified as artistic, but anyone in the homeless population needing a safe place to
experience community.

“People come in to do larger works, but sometimes people just come in wanting a place to sit, doodle and hang out,” Worden said. “The people who participate really look forward to it. They bond with each other and with the
volunteers, too.”

Open studio ends in October each year as the team prepares for the showcase and then reopens in January. Worden said during the recess of open studio, people miss that sense of community.

“They’re missing each other right now, and we’re missing them,” Worden said. “The showcase is like a big reunion.”

Board member Troy Campa has also made meaningful connections with the Austin homeless population through the program.

“AFTS has given me the opportunity for relationships with those that find themselves homeless — giving me a much deeper understanding of the issues they face and the reasons they are homeless,” Campa said via email.

Campa said in addition to the profit artists make from selling their art, they benefit from increased self-worth.

The 2018 Art from the Streets showcase will take place Dec. 1 and 2 at the Austin Convention Center.