Art Enhances and Inspires Residents in Supportive Housing

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of every day life." Pablo Picasso

Rossmore Apartments with Piece by Piece mosaic artwork in living area and kitchen space.

Rossmore Apartments with Piece by Piece mosaic artwork in living area and kitchen space.

Imagine someone moving into their first home after experiencing homelessness, still dealing with the trauma and anxiety that comes with that struggle. What they experience in their new living space affects their mood and outlook on life. With the expansion of dignified, beautiful living spaces in permanent supportive housing, artwork is now being incorporated in buildings and in programs.

The task of rebuilding one’s life does not end with a key to a door. Individuals need support that will both encourage and empower their journey. Permanent Supportive Housing organizations, such as Skid Row Housing Trust, provide not only the key, but also the tools necessary to empower residents to start a new chapter. Programs such as Piece by Piece, offer both arts wellness and the opportunity to earn supplemental income. Through this unique partnership, supportive housing living spaces are enhanced through artwork residents create.

Mosaic panels, finished tomato and work in progress, for Rossmore kitchen.

Mosaic panels, finished tomato and work in progress, for Rossmore kitchen.

Numerous studies prove that Art helps with depression, mental health, anxiety, and trauma -- both through the act of doing and in having it present in every day life. From the tactile experience of hands-on activity to stretching the brain in creativity to appreciating the visions of others, art provides regenerative qualities.

Piece by Piece mosaic art workshop at Star Apartments.

Piece by Piece mosaic art workshop at Star Apartments.

The partnership between Skid Row Housing Trust and Piece by Piece exemplifies the healing power of art in many ways. Not only do residents attend weekly workshops to create, but they also have opportunities to contribute to artwork being installed in their buildings.

Exterior courtyard at the Weldon Apartments with new mosaic enhancements.

Exterior courtyard at the Weldon Apartments with new mosaic enhancements.

Two recent installations in Trust buildings -- the Rossmore and the Weldon, are great examples of artwork by Piece by Piece artists in collaboration with Trust residents. This direct engagement fosters community and ownership, as individuals are contributing to the beautification of their home.

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In addition to creating art for art's sake, participants at Piece by Piece have the opportunity to earn supplemental income and soft skills training through our Certificate Program. Individuals learn five main mosaic skills, then take both a verbal and demonstrative test, to become Certified Artists. There are four levels: consignment art, small commissions, large commissions, and professional development, where Piece by Piece supports an individual in creating their resume, portfolio and hosting a featured artist reception.

 
New Piece by Piece artist with instructors Betty Rosen and Bea Jones.

New Piece by Piece artist with instructors Betty Rosen and Bea Jones.

 

Ultimately, what is extremely powerful is the sense of accomplishment. When someone experiences homelessness or is vulnerable to it, it is challenging to create any kind of tangible art. But when living and participating in a safe, supportive environment, individuals can have a place of solace to think, design, and work toward a goal. The value of art in our artists' lives--from visioning to creating to earning supplemental income-- cannot be understated. Tangible evidence of the creative spirit empowers and inspires self-confidence and self-worth.

Building an Artist Community: Piece by Piece at an inspirational fieldtrip to the Casspir Project exhibit at Los Angeles-based Rendon Gallery.

Building an Artist Community: Piece by Piece at an inspirational fieldtrip to the Casspir Project exhibit at Los Angeles-based Rendon Gallery.

One Trust resident shared his experience as a part of not just Piece by Piece, but the overall community of Skid Row:

As an artist and resident of skid row I have tried to continue a tradition that has been established here. I would like to see the community and society at large change for the better. Making positive art, garden spaces and murals improves how we as residents feel about life. Training others in the arts forms bonds and friendships that are vital to maintaining a healthy community. As part of creating and installing art, residents also get paid, forming an employment history and the means to create a better standard of living.

There is also a deeper emotional level that art provides to a community. We have artists who create portraits and establish memories of our community members. Many residents are accomplished musicians and singers, and share their passion and ideas across Los Angeles. This creates a sense of belonging, that Skid Row is a real population of people and not just a drifter’s hide out or a dumping ground for disabled and poor people. Art can transform Skid Row into a more engaged and focused community, and hopefully a place that is recognized and respected.

This type of supportive program is vital to maintaining housing stability, building self-confidence, and fostering a strong community.

Support Piece by Piece through a donation or purchase of artwork. Learn more: www.piecebypiece.org.