From the moment you enter the Street Life Gallery (formerly the Seattle Homeless Art Gallery) you are aware you have come upon a magical place. The usual comment of the first time visitor is, “I never knew such a place existed.”
The magic is more than the richly varied art displayed on the walls: dramatic mountain landscapes, affectionate portraits of homeless people, and vivid depictions of Polynesian myths. It’s more, too, than the relaxed atmosphere, with music playing on the radio and the coffee brewing.
What you feel is the energy of creation.
The gallery is first and foremost a place that fosters creativity. It is a place that nurtures the individual in the spirt of community. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a master water colorist or a would-be painter. It doesn’t matter if you do “art” or “craft.” And it certainly doesn’t matter whether you’re living on the street, in a shelter, or in an apartment. What does matter is your desire to explore and develop your creativity through art.
The Seattle Homeless Art Gallery opened in July, 1991, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Catholic Community Services (CCS), Noel House (a women’s shelter program), the Denny Regrade community, the Sea-town Crier (a now-defunct voice of the homeless newspaper), and the tireless work of Michael Howell (local artist and member of the Homeless Art Committee).
The Gallery is dedicated to providing a comfortable, hassle-free space for homeless and low-income artists to work, display, and sell their art, and share their talents by offering workshops to the community. In addition, the Gallery is able to furnish some free materials and supplies, provided, in part, by donations from the public.
In October, 1993, a part-time Gallery coordinator was hired with a nine-month grant, funded through the City of Seattle. This allowed an increase in the number of hours the Gallery was opened and an expansion of programming that brought the involvement of more community members. The Gallery continues to be staffed and managed by homeless and low-income artists and artisans from the community.
Gallery Coordinator Barbara Brownstein believes that Street Life Gallery is a place with great potential for healing. “The Gallery really speaks to the best aspects of the human spirit: the resiliency of people who have gone through a lot of hard times with their inner strength undiminished. If anything they’ve grown. Art is a real salvation.
In the four years since its inception, the Gallery has become a viable part of the Belltown Community, breaking down barriers and transforming preconceived biases about what it is to be poor and homeless, till what remains is just the wonder of the creative process that we all possess.
The work that appears here is taken from “Street Life Gallery,” a book showcasing the work of ten gallery artists and poets that will be released in Mid-September. For more information about the Street Life Gallery, call 328-5637.