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On November 17, organizations and practitioners from across the U.S., U.K. and Canada will convene at a conference focused on arts and homelessness. The event, which is taking place in Montreal and features a “street art” fair, is produced by With One Voice – an international movement that aims to connect and strengthen the arts and homelessness sector.
A recent report by With One Voice discusses the way homelessness in America is often seen as a failure of the individual, whereas in Europe, it is often viewed as a failure of the system. The author argues that the stigma around homelessness and poverty in the U.S. creates a self-reinforcing cycle and can lead to chronic homelessness – people’s self-worth depreciates as they are overlooked by passers-by and blamed by society for their own circumstances.
This lack of understanding about individuals living in different circumstances has contributed to a polarized society, not just in the U.S, but globally. Nonprofits like Seattle-based Path with Art believe there is a desire and need to heal the fractured parts of our society – a yearning to knit ourselves together and recognize each other as human beings.
Adults recovering from homelessness, addiction, and other trauma can benefit from creative engagement because it acts as a bridge to community and a path to stability. For nearly a decade, Path with Art has maintained one vision: A world where arts engagement is recognized as transformative – connecting the individual with the self, the self with community, and communities with society. The organization is not alone in its beliefs or practice, it is part of a growing movement across the globe.
Partnering with social service agencies and arts organizations, and working with a roster of professional teaching artists, Path With Art offers classes that range from Sumi painting to Shakespeare, workshops, exhibitions and showcases of student work, and tickets to local arts events, all at no cost to participants or social service agencies.
The organization also builds community art projects that bring together disparate groups of people – those who are wealthy, those with empty pockets, and those in-between – to make art, but also to deepen understanding of each other beyond the lens of statistics.
How Art Can Make a Difference
In 2014, German researchers were the first to demonstrate the neural effects of visual art production on psychological resilience in adulthood.
Participants at Path with Art are living proof that creative expression can make a difference.
Before engaging with the program, participants report feeling invisible, marginalized, shamed, and disrespected by society. Through creative expression in a safe and respectful community, students learn, or re-learn, to trust themselves and others, and develop new skills and habits.
Community art initiatives don’t just provide access to art, but a lifeline for those who have lost themselves, for those who have become untethered from the rest of society. And, equally important, they help the rest of society understand the humanity behind their situations; to see people for their worth and potential, not just their current circumstances.
Find Out More About the Impact of Art on Recovery:
- Learn about an international movement: With One Voice’s site includes a map of projects around the world, contact info, resources and an evidence library accessible to all. See their recent report.
- Connect and support arts programs: Organizations like Path with Art provide donors an opportunity to fund programs and volunteer as mentors.
- Tap into research about the impact of art on recovery and search more stories on Giving Compass.
Original contribution by Holly Jacobson, Executive Director, and Makayla Esposito, Administrative and Communications Coordinator at Path With Art.