‘Place to call home’: Austin homeless art nonprofit lands first permanent studio space

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For 29 years, Art From the Streets has provided creative refuge to Austin’s homeless artist community. Its own journey has paralleled that of its artists, as the nonprofit has struggled to secure permanent studio space.

Now, that’s changed. After nearly 30 years of operations, Art From the Streets has found a new place to call home.

“What we’re doing parallels what our artists are doing. And it’s given us a whole different appreciation,” said Kimberly Terry, fundraising coordinator for AFTS.

AFTS provides art materials, storage space and art show commission opportunities for artists to earn an income doing what they love.

The nonprofit launched nearly three decades ago and has partnered with area nonprofits or religious service organizations to provide studio spaces, as well as connect artists with housing and job resources. It has primarily operated out of St. David’s Episcopal Church and will now be located at 916 Springdale Road in the Canopy Austin creative warehouse.

  • After years of operating studio classes out of fellow nonprofits' facilities, Art From the Streets has begun its move into its new studio space in east Austin. (KXAN Photo/Kelsey Thompson)
  • Pat Chapman and Kimberly Terry of Art From the Streets are preparing to move the nonprofit into its first permanent studio space. (KXAN Photo/Kelsey Thompson)
  • For nearly 30 years, Art From the Streets has provided creative refuge for Austin's homeless artist community. Now, the studio is preparing to move into its first permanent home. (KXAN Photo/Kelsey Thompson)

The nonprofit focuses on offering these resources to artists who happen to be without housing or at risk of losing shelter. Now, the majority of artists maintain some form of housing but use AFTS as a way to make a commission off their artwork.

“It’s like seeing one of your kids just get something wonderful,” said Pat Chapman, studio coordinator for AFTS. “We’ve had several of our artists who were able to secure housing out of Community First. And that has been celebratory for all of us.”

AFTS averages about five art shows a year, where artists earn 95% of their commissioned price for sold pieces. Next month, the nonprofit will celebrate with its annual art show at Blue Genie Art Bazaar, where thousands of pieces will be on display for purchase.

In 2019, AFTS worked with about 75 to 100 artists who were homeless, at risk or in transition between housing situations.

Now, around 35 artists have returned to the studio on a regular basis amid the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to in-person studio time resuming, AFTS has also compiled hundreds of art kits and delivered them to artists so they can access materials remotely.

While AFTS’s work specializes in providing artistic resources for homeless artists, both Chapman and Terry said it’s crucial for these artists to be seen as just as worthy and capable as their housed industry peers. Homelessness is just one factor of their lived experience and not their whole story, Terry said.

“In reality, anybody is just one moment away from being homeless, and your identity can be stolen. There’s so many things that can happen that can help move you in that direction, in an unwanted direction,” she said. “So we view our artists, and we call them our artists.”

“We call them that, because we honor them,” she continued. “They’ve very talented people, they’re very gifted, and they work hard in order to create this beautiful artwork.”

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