The Drop Inn Center is Greater Cincinnati’s largest homeless shelter, located in Over-the-Rhine. Providing shelter, meals and transitional services to those in need. This picture is taken from one of our sessions. We studied the work of Wasilly Kandinsky, one of the great masters of abstract art.
Although the room was crowded with coats and beds, the arts opened up a new space for the women to think and feel.
What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit. — John Updike
“This is my first night being homeless. I lived in the same apartment for 30 years. They tore down our building. I had to spend my savings to store my things. Making art reminds me of happier times. I have a grandson who is eight and he loves art. I am going to show him that I do too.”
I noticed a woman sitting on her bed at the shelter. She seemed agitated and frustrated. I invited her to our art session. At first she just watched us. Within ten minutes she sat down next to me and said, “I am 77 days sober. This is the longest I have been sober in like forever. I missed my women’s group meeting tonight because of our curfew. I feel real crazy…this is when I would be using.”I gave her paper, watercolors, and a brush. Without any direction she began to paint. She worked for 20 minutes without speaking. Once she was finished, I asked her how she felt. “I’m no artist or nothing but I enjoyed myself. I tried to paint a place where I want to be – far away from here.”
During this session we studied Vincent van Gogh and his sunflowers. I gave a bit of background information on the artist and explained to the women how he suffered from mental illness. Annette finished her work and laughed and said, “I guess I can see why he painted. Art is like an antidepressant – they probably didn’t have pills back then!”
“Art is the triumph over chaos” – John Cheever
I have been working Brandie for three years. She has endured a lot of disadvantage in her 19 years. She is doing her best. Brandie always wears headphones and rarely speaks. Every now and then she will text me to meet and make art. This picture is taken from one of our sessions. We studied Aboriginal art. We spoke very little to one another. I cannot change her life circumstances, but I can provide her with the opportunity for self expression. I am happy when I watch Brandie paint. I know for a brief time she has
“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.” – Stella Adler
I visit Gary a few times a week. He leaves his home only for doctor appointments. He relies on government assistance to meet his rent and medical expenses. He is constantly battling the system to receive the assistance he needs. On a day felt especially defeated, I brought him oil pastels and paper. I asked him to express his feelings on paper.
“My drawing expresses the outside forces trying to break me…my illness, fighting for disability pay and Medicaid. In this drawing I am holding my hand yelling, ‘No! I will not be broken.'”