This week I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the topic I want to cover for the next eight months. I created a “brain dump” where I wrote down everything I am interested in. I spent about 2 hours writing down my interests and trying to find a correlation between them. I decided I want to pursue the direction of homelessness of today, the working homeless who have just lost their jobs in this economy and are without a home.
For another two hours this week, I researched extensively about today's homeless. I gathered many statistics and posted the most compelling ones on my last blog post. It was important for me to gather these articles because this is a current topic I am covering; I need the latest information available.
For another three hours, I was in the library researching. I got four books. One focused on social issues in art, and how exhibitions display such work. This book visualized exhibitions done for homelessness, alzheimers, education systems, and many other issues. It allowed me a way to see how artists created visual work on social issues. The second book I picked up was very fascinating; the artist created 6 photo essays during the Great Depression. I chose this book because several people today have been comparing our current economic state to the time of the Great Depression. The photos in this piece are very, very sad and heartbreaking. Very heavy stuff. The third book was a lighthearted view of the homeless in NYC. Very cool book. The artist’s goal is to show how the homeless are no different from anyone else- how they have the same dislikes, and likes as the rest of us. The artist created a “make-shift” studio near a NYC soup kitchen; the backdrop of the studio was created out of blankets. The close-up black & white portraits are stunning. Some are actually very funny. The personalities of the people are truly visible. I actually dedicated over one hour reading this one book. It provided powerful images as well as powerful statistics. This book touched on the same issues as the Great Depression book, but in a completely different manner. The fourth book I got was on “emotional design” and how you can create emotional art through expressive typography & design. Great book.
Here are pictures of the third book I was referring to, Sidewalk Stories by Salvo Galano.
I also took some time today to e-mail different homeless family organizations around the Ann Arbor area. Erica gave me some great contacts to specific homeless organizations in the area.
For another hour, I decorated my studio. Painted it light purple. Tomorrow I am planning on getting more posters & things to make it more welcoming. I really love the studios because I love being around my fellow peers. It is an amazing feeling to be surrounded by extremely talented and creative people. I feel very fortunate to have a studio.
After: (Still need more wall art!)
What I accomplished, discovered, encountered:
I feel this week I worked out the overall theme of my project. Although I do not know the specifics of what direction I want to head, I know that I am passionate about this topic.
I e-mailed homeless family shelters in Ann Arbor. I am affiliated with the IRF (Inter-religious fellowship) of Bergen County, New Jersey; they have different affiliates throughout the country and I found one in Ann Arbor. One woman, Julie Steiner, from the organization got back to me immediately! She wrote a very nice note and wants to meet next week. I am very excited!
I also discovered how this topic isn’t the most joyous of subject matters. It is a very sad issue, but I am looking to assist these people. And that is a good, positive thing.
What Should I Do Next?
I am going to plan a day to meet with Julie Steiner from the homeless shelter. I also want to reach out to Carol Jacobson and ask her several questions about how to directly deal with the homeless. I hear she is great at communicating to her subjects, women in prisons, why she documents them. I want the homeless to understand I am not exploiting them. I want to help them. However this is very hard. For instance, if I want to photograph them, I would have to bring my camera, which creates a barrier between me & them.
I also want to further investigate different approaches I can take for this project. Do I want to make is an emotional, sad experience where I show the pain of the families? Do I want to pick a select few families and tell their stories? Maybe I should go to a few shelters before I can figure out those answers.