You all know I work in Wicker Park at a dinner service. I've posted pictures of some of the place I work and people I've worked with here (click on the yellow text to see the Amazing smiles of some of the folks I've met over the years.
A lot of you know I've also had a dream to have an art workshop for people who live outside.
Usually when I get to work I cook food and then wash dishes. Last night, when I got to the kitchen, Father Manny was there. Father Manny is my boss (and you know who his boss is) and I hadn't seen him in ages and he gave me a huge hug. He is the coolest person and I wish I was half as cool as him. Anyways last night I was put on hot chocolate duty. It was different because it was front of the house with the clients and it was a lot of fun. I had brought a huge bag with me last night, and I was glad to see Father Manny because this bag of stuff was for a different area of the building. I had brought a bunch of art supplies. I tell Father Manny this and ask where should I put them or if I can go right up to the art room area? He's like keep them in kitchen storeroom for now. (thats another wild job I've done there, completely sort and clean the store rooms and walk in fridges. Whole foods donates a ton of food for the kitchen).
Later during service I ask Father Manny about the art room and where the person running it is..he tells me quite a crazy tale and that the person has been awol. I blurt out..."I'll do it". AND "I'll also get art stores and manufacturers to give us supplies. I've already called some of them!, I can start tomorrow!"
He was surprised, but then he bounced back and said "alright. We'll talk on the phone tomorrow". Then, he said, "the area for art is filled with winter clothing donations". I kind of droop and then he says "You can use the chapel!"
So then I go back to focus on the clients who are piling through the door and get some hot chocolates rolling. I am so excited I kind of get tears choking up. My mind begins to race with all the things I've wanted to get going for such a workshop.
If you've ever visited or worked in a place that serves people who live outside, you might have seen art rooms or facilities. I've seen a lot of these places but most people don't think of art making when they think of shelters or facilities for the homeless. The major trend has been art therapy. (which is not the same as practicing art) I used to work at a literacy program in Toronto for street kids. My duties were basically to archive the books. There was an art room but in these situations there are few supplies and often amateur grade materials, and rarely stretched canvas. I've always wanted to get professional grade supplies and have comprehensive workshops available in such a situation. I am all for small works on paper, and brief art activities but often this format is due to lack of supplies, rather than a decision on the part of the homeless artist. It' s one thing that I may work with recycled materials and found things...but part of art making is deciding what to use and what not to use. I believe in making stretched canvas as available as recycled paper because even choosing materials is part of the process. On some level, only having paper and pastels and few paints available is suggesting no one takes the work seriously enough to invest in options. One of my pet peeves is the adage "beggars can't be choosers". I say why the heck not? The adage is for poor people, not people of means. Too many people use that adage as an excuse not to dig deep into their own pockets or energy.
I am so excited I was spazzing with Stagg last night. My daughter was texting me asking what I was gonna do. On the way home on the bus my mind was racing with all kinds of ideas. Even to get disposable cameras so participants could build up their own image bank, to get individual sketch books donated for participants to journal, sketch and keep...for recording ideas for work. We could also do a video workshop in the spring, if anyone has interest in filming or scripts and ideas!
I've already got some ready stretched canvases, rolls of drawing paper, brushes, some acrylic paints, all kinds of collage material and I'm making image books and collecting art history books, contemporary art magazines...and really the possibilities are endless. These are just some meager beginning ideas.
When you have people who want to practice art and make things and have an area with all kinds of resources from found objects to professional grade materials there aren't any limits! And most people who need to make things from their imagination already have a ton of ideas...in this situation they just need supplies and space! Plus, if any one wants to learn classical techniques, I can teach them.
Now that I have the go-ahead...I am so stoked. I will still work supper hour in the kitchen , as this art workshop would be in the daytime. Usually, "art programs" are once a week for a couple of hours. The problem with "programs" are that they are based on low level assumptions and stereotypes. One of the reasons my approach is different is because with enough art supplies and materials we could have a set up two or more times a week. The idea that art is hobby rather than a critical language in images has created elitism and a big business in "art therapy". The evidence of this cultural collapse with image-making is most obvious in the lack of the money and time we give art in schools and in homeless shelters.
I hope even a small step leads to more learning and more making...
-If It Feels Good