I was introduced to Art From the Streets in 2003 when I (along with my company Inferno Films) eagerly agreed to shoot a PSA, pro bono, for their annual, end of year, "Show and Sale". The cause, a program for homeless artists, was worthy and the dedicated staff of volunteers most impressive. But, what blew me away was the amazing artwork! In addition to the impressive artwork, the artists themselves are absolutely fascinating. I was convinced this had all the makings for a great documentary. So in 2004, I began shooting Art From the Streets.
It was in 1991 when Heloise Gold and Beverly Bajema made a deal with the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) to provide Gold and Bajema a space where they could invite homeless people to work on art projects. Gold and Bajema provided the art supplies, ARCH provided the space. Art From the Streets, as they called it, was born. After several months of these homeless "clients" creating artwork, Gold and Bajema decided that they needed to do something with the art. Their solution was to have a show to sell the work and give the money to the artists. The first year they hung about 70 pieces of art, and they sold all of them, returning much-needed funds to the artists. They realized that they were on to something. Twelve years later, in 2003, the AFTS show sold several hundred pieces for a total of about $70,000 with the artists receiving 95% of that total. The money is critical to these homeless artists, but it also gives them a much-needed boost in their confidence and self-worth, which is sorely lacking for most of this population.
Over the course of a year, I followed five of the artists involved in the program. Through them, you'll see first hand the daily struggle to survive on the streets and also learn how this phenomenal program serves these people and the community.
Going into this project, I anticipated it would be very interesting, but it has far exceeded my expectations. My goal is to expose this grassroots organization to other communities with the hope that it may inspire other groups or individuals to adopt similar programs. Art From the Streets is truly a win-win situation on all levels.