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Art exhibition connects OSU students with homeless youths

Artwork created by Columbus’ homeless youths is displayed at last year’s The Visible Invisible Art Exhibition Credit: Courtesy of Juli Sasaki

Organizers of an art exhibition on campus are asking Columbus’ homeless youths an unlikely question: “What does home mean to you?”

On Saturday, student organization The Visible Invisible will be hosting its third annual visual-arts exhibition, titled “Home: The Visible Invisible Art Show.” The exhibit will feature works from Ohio State students as well as homeless individuals who receive services from Star House, a drop-in center sponsored by the College of Education and Human Ecology.

“The whole thing will be opening up this idea of all these definitions of home and connecting that to this idea of youth homelessness because a lot of people, I feel like, don’t understand quite what homelessness is,” said Juli Sasaki, primary leader of The Visible Invisible.

Sasaki said the exhibition’s theme of “home” evolved from a collaborative art project created by OSU students and homeless youths at Star House in the fall.

The piece, titled “Home,” that inspired the exhibit and will be on display,  is a tri-fold, makeshift shelter created entirely from reused or recycled materials and draped with canvas. Sasaki said it is covered in photos taken by the homeless youths who responded to the question, “What’s visible to you but invisible to everybody else?” such as their everyday surroundings.

Although each piece in the exhibit addresses the artist’s distinct concept of home, Sasaki said it is difficult to characterize the works as a whole because a wide range of mediums and perspectives will be presented.

The variety of works presented is reflective of the varying levels of homelessness, Sasaki said, as any individual who doesn’t have a place he or she can regularly depend on to spend the night is considered homeless.

Sasaki said she hopes the exhibit will prompt people to connect with members of the homeless population who will be in attendance — including Candace Kennedy, who received her associate degree in fine arts before becoming homeless due to family circumstances.

Kennedy said she participated in art exhibitions during college, but the upcoming show is the most meaningful and personal to her.

“Instead of (the exhibition) being for credit or whatever, it’s because I want something to change and I want a voice in what’s going on around me,” Kennedy said. “There’s a lot of misconception about the homeless population, both as a whole and the youth, so it makes a difference for me to feel like I’m doing something with my time and effort.”

Along with the artists’ work, Sasaki said the exhibit will feature two interactive walls. One of them will feature a blank piece of butcher paper on which individuals can write down their response to the question, “What does home mean to you?” The other wall will be inside of a makeshift darkroom and feature 11 statements by homeless youths written in invisible ink.

Those attending the show will be given ultraviolet flashlights so they can illuminate the statements about homelessness and the stereotypes surrounding it.

Antwane Martin, a homeless artist whose work will be featured in the exhibit, said he wrote his statements with the goal of raising awareness of the overlooked homeless population in Columbus.

“(Art is) a good opportunity to change the perspective between people who never experienced something like (homelessness) or people who could be experiencing something,” Martin said. “Let people know, it’s OK what you’re going through, people go through things and trouble don’t last long.”

“Home: The Visible Invisible Art Show” is set to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday in Knowlton Hall. Admission is free, but there will be a silent auction of the art from which 80 percent of the proceeds will go directly to the artist with the remainder going to Star House.

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