Volunteer Austin Homeless. A nonprofit is NOTHING without their volunteers and the people that work behind the scenes to make the organization prosper. Art From The Streets recognizes the hard work and dedication every volunteer pours out to support our artists and program. We are privileged to work alongside a group of selfless volunteers who support our mission in countless ways. We want to express our gratitude to our volunteers for lending their time and energy, through a series called “The Backbone of Art From The Streets.” This article series will allow us to spotlight our volunteers and share their story, as well as journey with AFTS.
We couldn’t do this without our wonderful community of volunteers. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU! The selfless service of our volunteers truly is, “The Backbone of Art From The Streets.”
“I started volunteering with AFTS washing brushes, cleaning tables, setting up art shows, & engaging in this underserved community. I am inspired every day to support these artists in their pursuit of creativeness, peace, and community.” - Kelley Worden
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START VOLUNTEERING WITH AFTS?
“I worked with my sister-in-law and set up art ‘stations’ with Mobile Loaves & Fishes when their organization was feeding people experiencing homelessness each month in downtown Austin. We created an art trailer and called it Mobile Arts & Wishes. We connected directly with the homeless population as they lived on the streets, received a great meal and created art with us.”
“The people we met inspired me deeply each time we visited. More like they blew me away with their talent, humor, insight, intellect and immediately my perception was changed. I introduced my friends and family to volunteer with me, we all needed to jump out of our safe bubble and stretch out. Stretch out of the norm, stretch out to see the world in a different light, gain awareness in a different and creative way.”
WHAT KEPT YOU COMING BACK?
“The smiles, the positivity, the humor, the hope in light of such a hard existence on the streets. How could I ever complain about ANYTHING ever again. I needed to be filled up with that hope every day.”
“I also needed something to bring back to the dinner table. I was a stay at home mom by choice for twenty years. My kids were engaging in sports and social activities - they were growing up. Everyone had a story from their day, a conversation - good or bad, fun or not - still something to chat about. I had lunches, girlfriend happy hour and cleaning every baseboard in my home. Valuable but for me I needed more, working with AFTS gave me something to bring to my dinner table, something to discuss, something outside of the box for our family. My engagement was vital and important and I loved the conversations it brought into our home.”
WHICH ARTISTS DID YOU CONNECT WITH?
- “Cathy Haynes: Her resilience being a woman on the streets, living in her car, and her creativity - [if only I could jump] inside her brain and tap her constant creations.”
- “June Yan: A beautiful talented artist without pretension.”
- “Kevin Lane: Always a hustler and [always willing to create conversation] - he is loud, boisterous and would always have my back.”
- “Eric Ultieg: His calm demeanor and amazing artwork that continues to evolve. [And of course his huge heart] - each year he donates back to the program.”
FAVORITE MEMORY VOLUNTEERING WITH AFTS? OR TWO?
- “PREP TIME - This is where we organize a year worth of work to be [prepared] for the annual show and sale. 1000+ pieces need to be labeled and priced - it is a process. This is where I really started digging into the organization years ago. I remember walking into my first prep of artwork with little to no knowledge of how things worked, jumped all in and tried to make it even better. After two days, I was told I wasn't needed by the lead volunteer. I laugh about it all now, and truly my feelings were not hurt. [And so my journey with AFTS began], the next day I reached out to the executive director to see where I could be of service in another capacity.”
- “OPEN STUDIO - Our artists sometimes, or maybe a lot of the times, change their names when they come to our program. Change who they want to be, [for safety purposes], or just to change. AFTS artist John Curran signed all his work "Francoise" one summer. It took us months to figure out who this "new" artist was - we laughed wishing we could change for a summer too.”
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WITH AFTS?
“Right now, getting back into Open Studio, I just can't wait! I miss all of our volunteers and our artists. We reach out weekly to many of our artists we can connect with but it is not the same.”
“I know this is the same for many in our world right now. Many [of our artists] are struggling with isolation but most are so very positive and moving forward. We are thankful! I can't wait to get back to the routine Open Studio provides and whatever the ‘new normal’ looks like.”
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PAINTING YOU ACQUIRED?
“I have many beautiful paintings in my home with amazing stories of each artist. However, in the beginning of my volunteering I was really attracted by June Yan's work. I have always enjoyed all genres of work but always leaned toward more realism.”
“I began talking each week with June, connected to her story, learned of her children, her grandchildren but also understanding her resiliency, pride and strength. At that point I could understand how her abstract art was a story - her story. Strength, beauty, and grit.”
Kelley, thank you for sharing your story, as well as the commitment and passion you have for this organization and the people it fulfills. AFTS would not be what it is today without your unwavering dedication to helping those around you. We thank you for welcoming so many into the Art From the Streets family; you are truly irreplaceable. We look forward to our bright future with you as a member of our team!