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Arts & Culture

'It Has Enriched My Life': Art From The Streets Goes Virtual For 2020 Holiday Show

'Enchanted Mountain,' Larry Williams 2020
'Enchanted Mountain,' Larry Williams 2020

For nearly 30 years, Art from the Streets has used art to engage with and support people experiencing homelessness. They provide their artists with studio space and art supplies, encourage them to create, and then host art shows with 95% of the sales going directly to the artists. Things have been different in 2020, though. “Art from the Streets has had to cancel our open studio since March,” says the organization’s executive director Kelley Worden. “We’ve had to revamp what we do… and how to reach and make contact with the artists that we [work] with.”

They have found ways to get art supplies to their artists, but the pandemic that forced them to close the studio has also forced them to change the way they hold their annual holiday show and sale. In lieu of a traditional, in-person show, Art from the Streets is putting together a two-day virtual version.

Larry Williams, who’s been painting with Art from the Streets for nearly fifteen years, says he’s really going to miss the communal aspect of the usual in-person show. “I thrive on that,” he says of meeting art patrons at the show. “It’s not just the people who come in there to buy stuff. The people who come in there… not having no idea why they’re there but being fascinated by all the stuff that’s around them. And it’s all inspirational. I usually, right after the big show we have every year, that’s usually when I go into like a real creative mode, you know?

“I’ve been with this program since about 2006,” Williams says. “And it has enriched my life immeasurably. It’s filtered out all the chaos, the distraction, the clutter, a lot of the homelessness noise. There’s a lot of noise with homelessness, believe it or not. Sharing and collaboration – those are the two biggest watchwords in the program. And you can’t beat that. That’s just a whole lot of affirmation for me. It really helped me to deal with my loneliness.”

Even during the pandemic, and with the Art from the Streets studio closed, Williams has remained prolific, creating dozens of works, including 35 that will be up for sale this weekend.

“We’ve had to really kind of reinvent our annual show,” Worden says. “We’ve had a whole group of people that have done it the same [way] for 27 years… and this year, [we had to] throw all of that away and start over again. It’s a huge learning curve. We’re going to make it work.”

The sale will happen at artfromthestreets.org on December 5 and December 6 and Worden says there will be a lot of art to view and possibly purchase. “We have over 700 pieces, so it is going to be quite a show. You’re going to have to take a deep breath and go through it slowly.”

“When we can know that people can look at what we do, sometimes that's everything," Williams says. "I know that I used to feel terrified on the street. And this program provided a true sense of… I knew there were people I could go to and be there with them for a time, and that meant a whole lot. It’s about integration into society instead of isolation. And I hope it shows up in the beauty of a lot of people’s work this year, because it always does.”

The annual Art from the Streets Holiday Art Show and Sale happens virtually on December 5 and 6.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.