By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – On April 5, artists who are or have experienced homelessness will display their work in an art show. The exhibit will be on display at the Homeless Alliance, 1724 N.W. 4th Street, in downtown Oklahoma City. The free exhibit, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., is open to the public.
The featured artists participate in “Fresh stART,” a program designed to provide people experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City with a supportive environment for creating art.
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.
“Art to me is therapy,” said Donato, a Fresh stART artist. “It keeps me driven and keeps me focused. It keeps me out of trouble. I’ve been coming to Fresh Start for three years, and each year I’ve gotten better and better.”
The show will feature artwork covering a variety of mediums including mixed media, collage, water color, 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 costs.
“Art allows people to temporarily escape their difficult situations and provides an opportunity to interact with peers in a positive environment,” said Dan Straughan, executive director at the Homeless Alliance. “And when an artist sells something that they created, it really helps build their confidence knowing that someone else values their work.”
Fresh stART hosts studio time twice a week at the Homeless Alliance’s Day Shelter located on their WestTown Homeless Resource Campus, a housing complex that serves an average of 350 people each day. Art supplies are donated by community members.
“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.”
In addition to art therapy, the shelter provides a respite where homeless patrons can go for a hot breakfast and lunch, along with onsite resources such as computer clinics, job training and basic medical care.
The Homeless Alliance, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, has several housing programs for families with children, veterans and people who are chronically homeless.
The organization also publishes The Curbside Chronicle, a magazine that provides both a voice and employment opportunities to people who are experiencing homelessness. Its mission is to increase awareness of social issues and decrease stigmatization of the homeless. The publication also works to build community between homeless and non-homeless individuals.
For more information regarding how to help, call the Homeless Alliance at 405-415-8410 or visit homelessalliance.org.