Three days a week, the Homeless Alliance transforms into an art studio, giving clients an outlet to express themselves. As the next Fresh StART showcase approaches, the program is also giving the artists a way to make much-needed money.
This week, Willis was hard at work on a new landscape. Nature scenes are what he is known for, because they remind him of his childhood in Michigan.
He told me, “My grandmother was so afraid of me being out in the woods all the time. I was just taking in the Lord’s work.”
As one of the original Fresh StART program participants, his style literally rises above the rest, using figurines of animals that leap off the canvas.
“I see flat surfaces, pictures, and they’re beautiful, what comes out of a person’s mind,” Willis said. “I kind of wanted to take it one step farther.”
Willis works at Walmart overnight and spends many of his days at the class, among other artists exploring their imagination.
Homeless Alliance spokesperson Kinsey Crocker said, “It’s a really good opportunity for people to come in, take their mind off the stress that they’re dealing with on a regular basis.”
Comic book artist Quincy is putting his first piece up for sale at the show this week.
Willis has a few, too, including a sculpture of a British warship, HMS Victory, that he spent a long time perfecting.
“I would say six months,” Willis told me.
He said the craftsmanship of old ships inspires him.
“They built them without electricity, without any power, all hand built,” he remarked.
Willis’s highest selling piece ever was a replica of the USS Constitution, for which he got $400.
Sales like these help make life a little easier, and organizers say it is not just because of the money.
Crocker said, “When someone else values something they created, it really makes them feel good about themselves, and it’s really great to see how it transforms people.”
You can support these artists yourself by attending the art showcase Friday, Sept. 13 from 11-7 at the Homeless Alliance.