Homeless, struggling artists find hope in creativity

Anna-Kay Reeves

With institutions such as The Blanton Museum of Art and installations like Ai Wei Wei’s “Forever Bicycles,” Austin offers many opportunities for art lovers to get their fix. The Art From the Streets showcase, an annual art sale featuring “homeless and struggling” artists, according to their website, is another place to appreciate the creative. The showcase took place on Dec. 1 and 2 this year.

These artists use the platform given to them by Art From the Streets to connect with the Austin community and tell stories that defy stereotypes of homelessness and transiency.

Kevin Lane

Artist Kevin Lane is a 15-year veteran showcase participant at Art From the Streets. He said he is drawn back year after year principally due to the community amongst the artists, as well as the opportunity to create.

“We’ve all been through some stuff here, and we appreciate each other’s hard work more for that,” Lane said. “Everyone here is working to better themselves and give something back instead of only taking from the world.”

After several deaths in the family, Lane moved to Austin for a fresh start, where he faced homelessness as he worked to get on his feet.

“People who have found themselves homeless aren’t always addicts and bums,” Lane said. “We’re all dealing with our situations as best we can. Being creative is good for that — it’s powerful.”

Lane exhibits a wide variety of styles in his work, though much of it is abstract. The joy of creating and the community of artists keep him coming back, Lane said.

Mark (Marco) Abelli

Community and resources are the biggest appeal of Art From the Streets for artist Marco Abelli. With a bachelor’s degree in Art History, Abelli is passionate about studying and creating art, which the program allows him to pursue.

“It’s the balance of achievement and enjoyment in my own art that keeps me going with it,” Abelli said.

For Abelli, who hasn’t personally dealt with homelessness, the opportunity to participate in the open studio where supplies are provided is still invaluable, as well as the sense of community that attending open studio provides.

“(Art From the Streets) give us the opportunity to make something on our God’s little acre,” Abelli said.“They give us the paints, the paper, everything. We just show up with a bit of camaraderie. It’s an oasis where you can spend time focused on something beautiful, even if it’s only for a little bit.”

Cathy Haynes

For artist Cathy Haynes, who has been showing with Art From the Streets for four years the program opened many doors in terms of getting exposure for her art.

“I’ve always been creative,” Haynes said. “Being part of this program lets me hear about other opportunities to do that in Austin, the biggest ones being public art competitions.”

Haynes began working with Art From the Streets after losing her home in a fire. She paints a range of subjects in her unique style, using bright colors and large eyes in portrait and animal paintings.

“I’m housed now, and I’m hoping to expand my art, maybe with an online store,” Haynes said.

Haynes’ work has made its way around Austin through opportunities she learned about through Art From the Streets. One piece was selected by CapMetro to be used as part of their public art expansion while another was selected to decorate the door of Google’s driver-less cars in Austin.