By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
This month, artists who are experiencing homelessness will display their work at an art show in the Paseo District in Oklahoma City. An opening reception will take place at 6 p.m. during the Paseo District’s First Friday art walk on February 5 and will be on display throughout the month of February.
The exhibit and opening reception, at Paseo Gallery One, 2927 Paseo, are both free and open to the public.
The featured artists are participating in “fresh stART,” a program of the Homeless Alliance and City Care. The program is designed to provide people experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City with a supportive environment for creating art.
Similar art programs in regional cities have shown positive results. In addition to providing a potential source of income, open studio art programs enable people experiencing homelessness to express themselves creatively, manage emotional issues, develop social skills through positive interaction with a peer group, develop confidence and skills transferable to employment.
“Fresh stART helps me with a multitude of problems – anxiety, depression, insomnia,” said Rocky, a fresh stART artist. “It’s helping people deal with things I deal with too. It’s helping people find an outlet taking them in the right direction. We create a lot of friends.”
The artwork on display covers a variety of mediums including mixed media, collage, watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil.
Participating fresh stART artists receive 80 percent of the proceeds from the sale of their artwork, and the remaining 20 percent is retained by the studio to offset gallery fees and the cost of matting the finished pieces.
“You see people who don’t normally communicate with others talking in class about art, and sharing techniques with one another,” said Kim Woods, deputy director at the Homeless Alliance.
“Art allows people to temporarily escape their difficult situations and provides an opportunity to interact with peers in a positive environment. It really helps build people’s confidence.”
Studies published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association indicate that art therapy — a practice started in the 1970s — is at least as successful as traditional therapy.
Fresh stART provides studio time twice per week at the Day Shelter located on the WestTown Homeless Resource Campus, 1724 NW 3rd Street. Art supplies are often donated by community members.
The Homeless Alliance, a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization, helps coordinate and improve services for the homeless population of Oklahoma City.
City Care is a non-profit organization preparing Oklahoma City’s less fortunate for positive change through sanctuary, housing and tutoring/mentoring.
For more information about how to get involved, contact the Homeless Alliance at 405-415-8410 or visit www.homelessalliance.org.