UArts Students Pair with Homeless Artists to Present Unique Exhibit

'Our Voice, Our Art, Our Home' tells the story of homelessness in Center City Philadelphia

Artist Dennis Jones, a formerly homeless Vet, paints at a Starbucks in Center City (Peter Crimmins/WHYY)

March 16, 2012

The homeless are often stigmatized and ignored by others in the community, but students in the Multidisciplinary Fine Arts program at the University of the Arts believe art can help to restore the voices of those on the street, reduce their "invisibility" and return some of their dignity.

The exhibition "Our Voice, Our Art, Our Home," which opened March 14 at Gershman Hall, features work by several homeless individuals who participate in the Broad Street Ministries' weekly "Breaking Bread" art therapy classes. The UArts students spent the last month helping to facilitate those classes.

"People walk by homeless individuals every day without even seeing them," said junior Camille Sassano, one of the student organizers of the project. "We wanted to show them in a different light, to demonstrate to the rest of the community that these are people with experiences, with really interesting stories.

"There are a lot of homeless artists in Philadelphia working on murals, working with textiles," she said. "This exhibition features paintings, drawings, photographs, fibers, music, video, poetry and more. We all share Center City: we should see beyond the label of 'homelessness' and see the person there instead."

The students also created a short video documentary that featured interviews with the artists about their lives and artistic inspirations.

The exhibit and opening reception were featured in news stories on WHYY, Philadelphia's NPR affiliate, and KYW NewsRadio.

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