Volunteer Connection. 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.
VOLUNTEER HIGHLIGHT: KATRINA MEREDITH
“I cannot change what has happened in the lives of the people with whom we work, but I can participate in providing an opportunity for people that are part of the homeless population to create art and nurture something that brings them joy and a sense of dignity and creativity.”
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START VOLUNTEERING WITH AFTS?
“Another AFTS volunteer invited me to come to an Open Studio session and after that experience I was hooked. I was leaving another volunteer activity that targeted affordable housing and exceeded my physical capabilities. AFTS was perfect and once I realized that I could work with another vulnerable population AND interact with people who love and create art - I felt I had something to contribute, even though I am not an artist.”
WHAT KEPT YOU COMING BACK?
“The artists, the committed volunteers and the staff at the Trinity Center.”
WHICH ARTISTS DO YOU CONNECT WITH?
“I love them all, but I feel especially connected to the female artists. Almost all of the artists are so grateful for the opportunities to create and sell their art [as well as] be in the safe, non-judgemental environment that AFTS offers.”
WHY DO YOU CONNECT WITH THESE SPECIFIC ARTISTS?
“All of the artists are vulnerable to physical, mental and emotional abuse or neglect - but female artists experiencing homelessness or having experienced homelessness, are especially vulnerable. At the same time I am inspired by the strength, creativity, and courage they often display.”
FAVORITE MEMORY VOLUNTEERING WITH AFTS? OR TWO?
- “It's so difficult to pick a favorite. But each time I experience an artist:
- opening up,
- trusting me enough to share their art,
- [sharing] their thoughts about their creative process,
- [or expressing] part of their pain or their joy...
...I tuck it away in my AFTS memory bank.”
- “One of our artists is always very standoffish and distrustful of both volunteers and other artists. [They] clearly do not want anyone to touch [them] or reach out to [them]. For several years I always welcomed [this artist] to class and let [them] know when I thought that [they] did a piece that was particularly creative. At one point several years ago, I had a bad fall and had to be absent from the studio for a while. While in recovery, I went for a short walk to get some fresh air and a bit of exercise... As I made my way across the street, I spotted [the artist] coming my way. [They were] startled to recognize me and see the state I was in. In the middle of the street [they] exclaimed, hugged, and helped me to the other side of the street, though [they were] laden with several bags... We had a friendly exchange and [they] genuinely wished me well and a speedy return to studio volunteering. Our relationship changed at that point and has become more trusting ever since. Several weeks ago, this artist and I were talking and [they] mentioned while discussing [their] housing situation that [they] could not live in close proximity to others... because of something that happened in [their] past. This admission caused me to think again about the enormity of [their] spontaneous gesture of a hug. It reinforced how little we know of the trauma that our artists have gone through and go through each day before and after they walk through the studio door. I am frequently humbled by our artists.”
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WITH AFTS?
“Being back in Open Studio with our artists.”
Art From the Streets' volunteers hold four times a week Open Studio sessions where people who are homeless or formerly homeless can come to paint and draw. Unfortunately due to COVID-19, AFTS has placed a pause on Open Studio until further notice.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PAINTING YOU ACQUIRE?
Hugh Miles, AFTS Artist Clifton Hayes, AFTS Artist
Thank you, Katrina, for your infinite wisdom, patience, and kindness towards the artists and fellow volunteers. Your passion for helping others is inspiring, and Art From the Streets is very fortunate to have you as a volunteer. You are an integral part of this organization, and we look forward to the future with you as a member of our team!
Thank you for visiting the Art From The Streets blog, an Austin based nonprofit that provides a safe and encouraging environment in which the positive spirit and creativity for those experiencing homelessness are nurtured through their own therapeutic art-making. If you are looking to further discuss our program, please contact us today for more information.
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