by Kirby Lindsay, posted 10 March 2014
This past week, the volunteers at ‘Homeless In Seattle’ – a non-profit, awareness-building program based in Fremont – issued a ‘Call To Artists.’ Muralists are needed to recreate, in brilliant color, black-and-white photo portraits of homeless people taken by ‘Homeless’ founder Rex Hohlbein. The finished murals will be displayed, outdoors, on the ‘Homeless’ headquarters, at Canal Street and 2nd Avenue NW – allowing passersby to see the faces of homelessness, and their inherent humanity.
Professional artist Sara Snedeker has taken the reigns of this project, called ‘Street HeArt’. Snedeker believes in the power of art, and in putting her talent to work towards social justice through organizations like ‘Homeless,’ and its off-shoot, ‘Facing Homelessness’. With ‘Street Heart,’ she and other artists not only create art, but the portraits also, by being sold at a fundraising auction later this summer, help fund the projects of ‘Homeless’ to support and elevate the dignity of individuals who spend time sleeping, for lack of another option, on our streets.
Using Talent To Transform
Snedeker first encountered ‘Homeless In Seattle’ through Facebook. She’d actually sought another social justice project to give her time and talent. The ‘Homeless’ site sparked her interest with its stories about those living without permanent shelter, sometimes even using their own words, and its dramatic, and stirring, photo portraits of the people themselves.
With her art, Snedeker explained, “primarily, I do window and wall murals.” She does seasonal window painting for area businesses, and some signage – while raising a family and studying for her degree in early education. Yet, in her ‘free’ time Snedeker does holiday paintings to benefit FareStart – a culinary job training and placement program for homeless and disadvantaged individuals.
She went looking for another way to give, and she reached out to Hohlbein and ‘Homeless’ where they asked for a new sign, and she did a portrait of one of the regular visitors. As she painted the murals, she met the people who volunteer, and the people who benefit from their efforts. “There is such a realness there,” she said, about spending time at ‘Homeless’, “you get to know them and talk to them.” Talking with everyone, the idea emerged to transform Hohlbein’s photos into paintings that could decorate the building, raise awareness and, hopefully, raise some funds.
Art To Raise Awareness
A generous donation of colorful exterior paints from Miller Paint (in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and Payne’s grey,) and a discount on the wood ‘canvases’ from Dunn Lumber, cut costs for the organization. Now, they need artists willing to accept the challenge, welcome the exposure, and able to overlook the lack of payment.
Snedeker understands that Street Heart won’t attract hordes of artists, but she hopes art students, hobbyists, and even homeless artists might embrace the chance to contribute to this well-meant project. Certainly, the community of people who support ‘Homeless’ and, ‘Facing’, has grown since 2011 when they began, and Snedeker certainly is proof that some artists see value in lending their talents to raise awareness.
Facing, Not Fixing
The proposed murals may appear to those less art educated (like myself,) as Andy Warhol-esque. Snedeker explained that the style is more in the ‘spontaneous realism’ strain, a la Voka. “This style brings out emotions,” she explained. The portraits of homeless people that have shared their own words with ‘Homeless,’ on Facebook and in the Canal Street offices, Snedeker hopes to see incorporated into the portrait, “to further personalize it.”
“People have stereotypes about people who live on the streets,” Snedeker observed, “but it’s really very individualistic.” She has embraced the mission of ‘Homeless’ and ‘Facing’ to serve and raise awareness, but not to try fix the people and their problems “The reality is that it’s really complex,” she said, “there is not one solution,” to the impediments that keep people from having a home.
Snedeker’s own awareness of the need for support, but not interference, comes from her own experience. As a teen, she and her siblings lived with their father – with only occasional contact with her mother, who was homeless, off and on. Her mom passed away before Snedeker had a chance to really understand what led her to the streets, but Snedeker is aware that no one could ‘fix’ it for her.
Perhaps, as a result, Snedeker regularly seeks projects that work towards equity. “I’m not just interested in homelessness,” she explained, “I think it’s important that everyone have the same rights that I do.” She wants to see an end to treatment of the marginalized as ‘less than people’.
“I’ve always worked in customer service jobs,” she explained. She’s always loved talking to people, and getting to know more about them. “Who are you?” she asks, “I want to hear your story.” ‘Homeless In Seattle’ and ‘Facing Homelessness’ create that dialogue between people on the streets and volunteers that listen, smile, and offer respect.
Spread The Dialogue
Any artists willing to enter the dialogue, and share their talent, can submit a brief statement of interest (no more than 300 words,) and 2 – 5 digital examples of their work (with two being portraits.) Others can help by spreading the word, to let any muralists know about this unique, philanthropic project.
The deadline for the statements of interest, to email@example.com, is April 1st, and shortly after that artists can pick up materials (unless they specifically offer to use their own.) The finished mural portraits are due by May 30th.
In the Street Heart ‘Call To Artists,’ it states, “We are looking for artists whose body of work reflects the ability to execute portraits. Before you write your statement of interest we encourage you to browse Homeless In Seattle’s Facebook page, albums and newsfeed. In order to develop a clear understanding of the non-profit organization…”
- Building Empathy, And ‘Facing Homelessness’
- by Kirby Lindsay, August 16, 2013
- Feast & Raise Funds At FareStart’s 20th Anniversary
- by Kirby Lindsay, May 25, 2012
©2014 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.