[Hpn] Homeless art finds home;Seattle Times;7/28/01
Morgan W. Brown
Sun, 29 Jul 2001 22:15:22 -0400
Saturday, July 28, 2001
Seattle Times <http://seattletimes.nwsource.com>
[Seattle, Washington, USA]
Local News section
Homeless art finds home
By Ray Rivera
Seattle Times staff reporter
A dark-haired girl who calls herself Raven Delirium glues together a collage
of photographs and words clipped from magazines.
The pictures are all of strong women: a video-game heroine, a black woman
cradling a white infant, a kick-boxing comic-book figure. Cut-out words
spell out the phrases: "Primitive Prophet INVASION" and "Fight like an
Animal for Freedom."
"I can't paint, and I can't draw, so I decided to do this," she says shyly.
Nearby a teenager who calls himself Rooster crouches over a poster board on
the floor at a center for homeless youths, carefully applying the final
strokes of red acrylic paint.
The self-portrait depicts a young man with a beak and a spiked Mohawk. He's
smoking a joint and masturbating in the sun. A thought bubble over the
character's head contains the word "Smooth."
"This is what motivates me," the 19-year-old says, craning his neck up from
his work. "Sex, drugs, the sun, my whole frame of mind."
The two homeless teenagers are part of a citywide project meant to awaken
them to their hidden talents through essays, paintings, sculptures, poems,
songs, skits and pictures that answer questions central to their lives: Who
am I? Why did I run away? How do I survive?
Their art ranges from rough to expressive, puerile to crude, whimsical to
touching. It occasionally gives glimpses of the realities of street life:
intravenous-drug use, panhandling, squatting in abandoned buildings, hassles
with police and store owners.
But more often, the work serves as a reminder of just how young many of
these teens are, stripping away the hardened layers of tattoos, body
piercings and tattered clothes.
The work will be on display and for sale tomorrow through next Saturday at
restaurants and coffee shops around Seattle and on Bainbridge Island.
In addition to instilling confidence in the teens, organizers hope the art
will give Seattle residents a better understanding of the roving bands of
young people that are often seen as little more than a nuisance as they clog
the sidewalks along Broadway and University Way Northeast.
"Even if you walk by a homeless teen and it doesn't look pleasant, there's
talent hidden there," said Aman A. Motwane, a California self-help author
and former Seattle resident who dreamed up the idea, called Seattle Wake-Up
"If we could just see that talent, our whole experience of that person would
Motwane, president of Prakash Press in Redondo Beach, Calif., plans to
publish an uncensored coffee-table book of the works, even those that
because of content are not displayed in the restaurants. He hopes to make
the venture an annual project, expanding it to other cities with large
The proceeds from the art and book sales will go to the teens and teen
shelters that participated, Motwane said.
More than two dozen merchants, art suppliers, manufacturers, teen shelters,
restaurants and coffee bars joined the project, donating supplies, time and
"It's just a heartfelt commitment," said Hazel Van Evera, a former AIDS
worker who now owns Pegasus Coffee House on Bainbridge Island, one of eight
places showing the work. "I think the voice of youth isn't heard or really
given much of a chance to be heard."
Even if the works or books never sell, the idea is already a hit among the
teens, said Elaine Simons, founder of Peace for the Streets by Kids from the
Streets, a homeless-teen center on Capitol Hill.
"This is what's been missing from my center," said Simons, who has made art
night a regular feature at the center as a result of the project. "The kids
really like it."
Pam Gates, executive director of Teen Hope, an overnight teen shelter in
Shoreline, agreed. "It gives them an outlet for what they're thinking about,
what they're feeling."
On a recent night at Peace for the Streets, where Rooster and Raven were
finishing their work, another teen was searching the window sill for dead
flies to glue to a picture of a black spider on a silver web.
Except for the flies, the creation has an innocent quality, like something
any schoolchild might bring home from art class.
"I'm not that artistic and this is just what I decided to draw," says Jaclyn
Mellon, 16, who says she's from "just around." Later, she reveals she's from
Spokane, a place she no longer lives because she fights with her older
brother and alcoholic father. She hitchhikes back every so often to visit.
Ilija Campbell, a polite 23-year-old who suffers from epilepsy, is finishing
a poster featuring the anarchy symbol, a squiggly A over a circle. He's
titling it "The True Law."
"I think it's pretty cool," he says of the art project. "It gives us a
chance to express how we feel in a good way, without it all building up."
Ray Rivera can be reached at 206-464-2926 or at email@example.com.
Where to view art
Rocksalt Steakhouse on Latitude 47, 1232 Westlake Ave. N.
Salty's on Alki, 1936 Harbor Ave. S.W.
Boomtown Cafe, 513 3rd Ave.
Java Club, 7811 Aurora Ave. N.
Restaurant Geneva, 1106 Eighth Ave.
The Pink Door, 1919 Post Alley
164 Restaurant, 164 S. Washington St.
On Bainbridge Island
Pegasus Coffee House, 131 Parfitt Way S.W.
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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