Homelessness is an issue that Ohio State students witness with tragic regularity around campus. If they feel inclined to help out, some might volunteer at a soup kitchen or give canned goods to a shelter. Few would think to pick up a paintbrush.
Saturday, a student organization called The Visible Invisible hosted “Metamorphosis,” its fourth annual art show in the Ohio Union, featuring young artists experiencing homelessness.
The organization’s members volunteer to supervise the art room at Star House, a drop-in center for youth between the ages of 14 and 24 without a permanent home. Here, the youth are provided with not only food, clothing and showers, but also counseling and outlets for expression. In the art room, they are given the space and resources to create whatever they’d like.
This yearly art show presents an opportunity for them to showcase their skills and get their name out as budding artists.
“I’m always surprised how in this one small space we get all these crazy talented artists,” Jillian Davis, third-year in art history and vice president of The Visible Invisible, said. “And I think being in situations where you’re experiencing a wide range of emotions … you need a way to deal with that. And I just feel like art can be a really good outlet for that, and so I think it lends itself to producing art that is very emotional or very vulnerable.”
Star House started out as a unique program funded by the university to provide resources for young people experiencing homelessness, while conducting best practice research on how to assist them, Kyra Drakulich, the manager for the Star Works transitional employment program at Star House, said.
It spun off as its own entity and is funded in part by events such as this art show. Art from the show was sold via a silent auction, with 80 percent of the money going to the artists and 20 percent going back to Star House.
Drakulich is a former recipient herself, having started receiving Star House’s services in 2014. She also has work displayed in the art show.
“My art is a reflection of two different things: the way I view the world and how I think other people should view the world — emotions that are felt through my life or through my past,” Drakulich said.
While there is no doubt that many of the artists’ work is influenced by their experiences with homelessness, the themes reach far beyond that. The paintings and drawings featured in the show spoke to glamor, identity, despair and everything in between.
One of the young artists at the show, identifying herself only as Kale, had a lot more to say about her future than her past. Looking at her paintings, it is hard to believe she has never had an art lesson, let alone that she had given up art entirely after becoming homeless. Kale has been homeless for six months, but thanks to support from Star House she already has plans to attend school at the Columbus College of Art and Design.
Some of Kale’s pieces show impossibly perfect women in surreal scenarios, which she said accentuates the unachievable beauty standards to which many women are pressured to adhere. She wanted to address the universal struggles that women face.
“I want it to be relatable; I want [the audience] to say, ‘I’ve felt that, too.’ When you read a book or you look at a piece of art and it ignites that feeling, just for a moment, that’s the point of creating the [art],” Kale said. “It’s like a snapshot of your life at that moment, and if someone else feels that thing too, you’re connected.”
Kale said she wants to pursue a career in art, and shows like this are the first step to getting her name out. The event represents one of many services intended to give young people the tools to create a better life for themselves. Drakulich, who has found housing, said the art program is an essential outlet during dark times.
The sense of community among the youth was evident — while it looked like an art show, there was a deeper connection between the attendees and participants. The atmosphere in the room glowed with the warmth of a family reunion.
“I feel blessed to be here, to be able to even have art to send in,” Kale said. “There didn’t have to be a place with an art room that let me use it, and let me use free canvasses and free paint, and I feel immensely blessed.”
For more information on Star House and how to help out, visit www.StarHouseColumbus.org.