News Column

Homeless Alliance's fresh stART program exhibits work in downtown Oklahoma City

July 17, 2014

By Silas Allen, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

July 17--James Jenkins has only been painting for a few years, and he doesn't have much in the way of formal training.

But thousands of people will see one of Jenkins' paintings this month as they walk to and from work or on their way to get a bite to eat.

Jenkins, who is homeless, is one of several painters involved in fresh stART, a Homeless Alliance art program designed to give people like him a creative outlet. Works from the program's artists are on display this month in the Bank of America Gallery on the ground floor of Leadership Square in downtown Oklahoma City.

Although he's only been painting on and off for about five years, Jenkins said he likes the process of transferring ideas and images from his imagination onto a blank canvas.

"You just go with the flow," Jenkins said.

The program provides people staying in the Homeless Alliance's day shelter with supplies to create paintings, drawings, sculptures and other art works.

Kathy Rawdon, the program's studio art facilitator, said the participants come from nearly every skill level. Many of the participants draw or paint, she said. A few make found-object sculptures. One artist makes small pendants by layering wooden craft sticks to form three-dimensional hearts, crosses and other shapes.

Kim Woods, deputy director of the Homeless Alliance, said the program was launched in 2008 as a partnership with Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Fresh stART was on hiatus for more than a year while the Homeless Alliance's day shelter was under construction. It began again in 2012, Woods said.

The program is patterned after Art from the Streets, a similar program in Austin, Texas, Woods said. Besides giving participants a creative outlet, the program also helps build community and fosters social interaction among the participants, she said.

Holding public exhibitions featuring art the participants create also helps bring public attention to the city's homeless population, Woods said. This month's exhibition is the second the program has held.

An alternative

On Wednesday morning, Donato Patrick, 45, worked at the day shelter on a pencil drawing of a Cuban street scene. The drawing was copied from a photo Patrick found in National Geographic.

Patrick had some formal art training when he was younger, he said, but he hadn't done any serious painting or drawing in about 20 years. After spending two years in prison for forgery, he started coming to fresh stART sessions when Rawdon asked him to give it a try.

Although he doesn't find the time to draw as much as he'd like -- he has a job and is working to find housing -- Patrick said he looks at art as an alternative to the drugs or alcohol he sees others around him using.

"I like to spend my time doing something more constructive," he said.

Sherry Corter, 42, was working Wednesday morning on an abstract painting. Corter, who has four works in the Leadership Square exhibition, said she started painting in her mid-20s. The program gives her a way to keep up with the hobby and express her thoughts and feelings, she said.

"I just wanted something extra to do besides the daily routine," Corter said. "It's a nice release."


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Source: Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City)

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