Selling artwork helped get artist Penny Hunt off the streets. Through the non-profit Art From the Streets, Hunt was able to create and sell sketches, drawings, paintings and woodwork. Art From the Streets’ holds free open studio sessions three times a week, where people who are homeless or at risk can come to paint and draw. As they create, AFTS helps sell what they’ve made—primarily by producing a yearly show and sale, an online print gallery and art shows within the community throughout the year.
Penny Hunt has been creating with AFTS for more than 13 years. Penny says that AFTS has had a tremendous impact on her life. “They’re such good people. I mean, they have your back if something’s going wrong and try to help you in any way they can. Just for me to be able to sell my art—you know that’s a big thing, because I’d never really sold my art before.”
Creating artwork has helped Penny through a lot of life situations, whether she needed to sell a piece because she was stranded traveling or for a hot meal. Through selling her artwork at AFTS, Penny has gained popularity amongst the artist community, but she’s not in it for the popularity.
Daily emotions, moods and life in general are what inspire Penny’s creative process. “My emotions are like a crashing wave, always roaring and changing and moving and booming all the time… that’s the drive.”
Penny draws inspiration from her extensive research of life and her surroundings. Her resourcefulness has led to some of her favorite work. She’ll often go to libraries to peruse large-sized volumes of artwork that can’t be checked out, so she’ll sketch the image onsite, later returning to the piece of Bristol paper for her ink, pencil and charcoal drawings, and get to work. Jaguars, leopards and snow owls are her favorite animals to draw. But in particular, a portrayal of a leopard created using gel pens and ink remains her favorite piece.
“There’s sometimes pieces I don’t want to give up. But I do it anyway, because I like to help others, and it might help somebody else to inspire them to draw or paint.”
Earnings have helped some participants like Penny actually get off the streets—a few permanently, others for shorter periods of time. Used cars and vans have been purchased which act as homes and studios for those without either. For most though, the monetary rewards are modest, allowing them to purchase basic necessities, such as clothing, shoes, food, and other amenities that most of us take completely for granted.
But there are other rewards. There is a feeling of pride and self-worth experienced as pieces are sold and their Open Studio attendance increases. There is the sense of purpose that brings them week after week, and the satisfaction from working hard at something and ending up with tangible evidence of that effort. Participants gain access to their creativity and, for some, the determination and discipline necessary to explore it. The personal relationships formed in the weekly studio sessions are invaluable additions to the artists lives as well as the volunteers. In many cases, the time spent with the volunteers and other artists in the open studio sessions are their only positive human interactions of the day.
As AFTS reminisces on 26 years of creating with the homeless and at risk, they are consistently reminded of the outstanding expertise, tenacity and community that is created by each of their artists and volunteers in this program. Each week they open their doors to vision, hope and talent.
The mission of Art From the Streets is to provide a safe and encouraging environment, where the positive spirit of homeless and at-risk people is nurtured through artistic expression, offering them a pathway to self-determination as a source of pride, achievement, social connection, and income through the creation and sale of their work.
Art From the Streets 26th annual show and sale is December 1—2nd at the Austin Convention Center in Ballroom A, from 11—5pm on each day. AFTS has a suggested donation of $5 to support the program. Be reminded that 95% of ALL art sales go directly to the artist. There will be over 75 artists and thousands of pieces of work for sale.