Sisters of the Road hosts art workshops for clients in advance of art festival for community
Feb 28, 2013 (The Oregonian - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Sometimes art is therapy, sometimes expression, sometimes sustenance.
Sisters of the Road is trying to make it all three for its homeless clients through a series of monthly art workshops leading up to the organization's first Journeys Art Festival fundraiser in May.
"It gives them a way to release what's inside and put it in a form that is acceptable," says Brenda Morgan, development co-manager for Sisters who has dabbled in various forms of art herself. "They can say things they may not have words for. They can translate feelings into something tangible."
Sisters of the Road has been in Northwest Portland for 33 years, serving an average of 250 meals daily and doing other homeless outreach based on an ideology of common humanity. The organization sees a lot of artists who fell on hard times and ended up on the street, Morgan says.
Sisters' first two workshops, one in January making collage boxes and the other in February writing and recording songs, each attracted about a dozen clients and Sisters staff members.
Two more workshops exploring other art forms will be held in March and April. Clients will display and sell their artwork at the Journeys Art Festival in the Portland Armory alongside 30 established artists. Organizers expect about 800 people to attend the event, May 18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sammy, a Sisters regular who declined to give his last name, said he enjoyed making the collage box, which he gave a circus theme. He used colors ubiquitous in his native West Indies -- turquoise, hot pink, yellow -- to "create something wild. I like wild things," he said.
Joanna, also a regular who did not give her last name, made a collage box for her 4-year-old son, who she hasn't seen in a long time.
"Art is very personal," Morgan says. "It's a way to discuss things you may not be able to discuss otherwise."
At the song workshop last week, Joanna showed up with her own guitar. Sammy had written poems he wanted to record, and, it turns out, contributed a rich voice to the song recording. Several participants dropped music jargon and eagerly discussed what a good song should do. The consensus was it should give a microscopic look at life.
Blue Azul, a professional musician with Discovering A Voice, a nonprofit that helps people tell stories through song, led participants through worksheets that parsed out the technical and personal elements of a song.
"Everybody's an artist. The goal is to pull it out," Azul said. "Music is a language in and of itself. It doesn't see class, race or gender."
In the two-hour interactive song writing workshop, Sisters staff and clients wrote and recorded two songs: "Butterfly Colors" and "Karma at a Discount."
People were nervous at first to sing along with Azul's songs, but the final recordings pick up a dozen voices in a rough harmony about life on the street:
"What would you do if karma came back to you Sell it at a discount. Oh, sell it at a discount."
- Sara Hottman
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