AFTS has helped many different artists get back to doing what they love. Helping others is unlike any feeling I have ever experienced before. I asked my cousin to join me on the first day of spring break to help out at the AFTS studio. He was eager to come along and see firsthand what it's like to help people in need. We arrived early to the studio before any of the volunteers, and I taught him all the things he needed to know for the day. He pointed out Artist Jeremiah Hurta because he was showing the pen and ink bookmarks he had created to everyone in the studio.
Everyone was in awe at the beautiful work and I began to interview him. He told me, “A friend of mine gave me a bottle of ink.” He has been drawing ever since high school and now has over 30 years of experience. He would take his bottle of ink and drawing pad to the corner of Woodland and 35 and draw. Many of his pieces have been sold there and people still come to that corner and ask for more art. His art is so popular that even professional tattoo artists have ask to use his work. His son has a tattoo of one of his many cross pieces on his chest.
Jeremiah went through a pretty rough divorce that led him to be on the streets. Once I learned about the divorce, he then began to tell me about his son. A year after the divorce he found out that the child he thought was his turned out not to be. I was in shock and could understand why he was distressed. The divorce caused Jeremiah to suffer from, acute stress disorder and he received some counseling for it but “only after everything was done and out of the woodwork.” When he was homeless, he camped out on the hill by Riverside.
Jeremiah explained, “you usually had to cross an area that was swampy and would have to go all the way up to the end of the trail and that's where I camped out.” That all happened around 20 years ago, but he is now in a housing facility. He now lives with his “partner and she has her bedroom and I have my bedroom. I'll stay up until one or two in the morning doing nothing but pen and ink drawing and doing my artwork.”
AFTS gave Jeremiah a place that was safe and quiet to do his work while he was staying at a camp. “This is my studio away from my studio. It’s great!” He has been asked by many different people, “how do you do it?” Not only is he outstanding at his pen and ink art, but he also does water painting and acrylic. When homeless people stand on the corner with signs, “people get tired of seeing those kinds of things because when they see that you have a talent, they love you more and they come back to you and say, ‘what are you drawing today?’ And I say, ‘what do you want me to draw today?’”
Jeremiah is dedicated to his art and to the volunteers in his life. Every time I am at the studio, I see that he is talking to everyone about everything. The thing about Jeremiah is that he is full of knowledge and excitement. As he says, “It's the joy really of art and what it can do for you even when you are depressed and down.”