Art From The Streets Supports Homeless Artists
Nov 03, 2023

Art From The Streets Supports Homeless Artists

Reporting Texas TV

AUSTIN, Texas — More than 100 homeless artists active with the non-profit Art From The Streets showcased more than 3,000 pieces of artwork on Oct. 21 and 22.

Blue Genie Art Bazaar hosted the annual exhibit which sells art on behalf of the artists. The goal is help them transition out of homelessness, which is a prevalent crisis in Austin.

The Austin-based non-profit organization Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) estimated more than 6,000 people in Travis County experienced homelessness on a single day this summer.

Artist Synethia Kelly said Art From The Streets strives to bring hope to the homeless by allowing them to express themselves through art, forging friendships with each other and art show patrons.

Before joining Art From The Streets, Kelly said she was ready to give up on life. She found herself homeless during the COVID pandemic, with her mental health spiraling.

Her doctor recommended that she attend an Art From The Streets event as a form of therapy. She said everything changed.

“It gave me hope and a sense of purpose. It gave me a safe place. It just, I feel like it really saved my life to meet these people,” Kelly said.

Kelly serves as a role model for her seven grandkids, who were all in attendance to support their grandmother for the art show.

“This is my life now. It’s just me and my magical brush that makes these magical paintings,” she said.

Artist Synethia Kelly’s grandchildren join her at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 22, 2023. (Meg Gross/Reporting Texas TV)

Many of the staff who support the life-changing non-profit have been there for years.

Kelly Worden is in her 12th year with Art From The Streets. She first served as a volunteer and then a board member before becoming the executive director of Art From The Streets in 2015.

Worden said her inspiration to serve for such a long time is the redemptive storylines that the non-profit yields.

“When a patron comes, and finds the piece of artwork, and then buys the piece, the validation that is in that process to our artist is just something I cannot put a price on,” Worden said.

“Four days a week, creating and being a part of that positive community, I think is the core and the heart of our program, and everything else just blooms outside of that.”

Worden said 95% of all sales go directly to the artists. She said the non-profit considers itself a continuum of care as although it does not offer housing, Art From The Streets partners with organizations that can help the artists with that.

Not only do homeless people have an opportunity to have their lives changed, but art patron Sach Sahib-Singh said the experience can be life-changing for customers as well. Sahib-Singh started coming to the annual art exhibit in 2001.

“I love just seeing people who’ve been kind of excluded from a lot of parts of Austin society being embraced and celebrated. Artwork is such a cool resource for people who need to express feelings that might be hard to put into words,” Sahib-Singh said.

He said he loves how the show opens doors to befriend artists and become a part of their lives.

“The stories are great, getting to meet with the artists is really cool, and I’ve made two or three new friends today that I’ve never met before, and now I can’t wait to keep buying their artwork and see them,” he said.

Sahib-Singh also said he has seen the non-profit transform the trajectory of the artists’ living situations.

“My new friend Bright has stable housing now, and that’s 100% from being involved with this super cool art show,” he said.

Sach Sahib-Singh holds up his purchases from Art From The Streets. (Meg Gross/Reporting Texas TV)

Art From The Streets cultivates an environment of support and encouragement for its artists, qualities which many may have previously lacked in their lives.

Dennis Milecki said he grew up in a household that was largely unsupportive of his artistic passions. Although he received a scholarship to go to an art high school for free, his parents refused because they did not want to pay the bus fare.

Milecki persevered with his passions, and now has an avenue to fully express himself. He said the non-profit gives him support his family didn’t.

“To make a painting, and start a painting, and finish a painting has been a problem all of my life, so that’s why I never became an artist until I came to Art From the Streets and people were saying, ‘I love your art,’” Milecki said.

Milecki heard about Art From The Streets while feeding other homeless people in Zilker Park. He said he was reluctant to join the group. It took four years to convince him to give it a try.

“I love it. I love this group. I love the people and what they stand for, their empathy for indigent people,” he said. “It’s just who I am and I fit right in.”

Susan Thomas began volunteering with Art From The Streets two decades ago. Thomas said Art From the Streets enables homeless people to be seen as more than just a statistic.

“So often the homeless people, they are not even seen, so often that we just go past them and look at them- but here’s an opportunity for them to actually be seen,” Thomas said.