HOUSTON—Hundreds of people were painting with a purpose as The Art Project held its third annual fundraiser, “Prescription: Paint” at the Knowles-Rowland Center at St. John’s Downtown on December 7, 2013.
Houston is home to roughly 10,000 homeless men, women and children. The project provides a platform for Houston to help change and enrich the lives of those in need. The event largely supports the Bread of Life, Inc. and its efforts to facilitate mental healing and life transitions of Houston’s homeless citizens through art.
Honorary Chairs Tina Knowles and Anita Smith sat amongst the artists as they painted underneath the instruction of Joe Synan.
St. John’s pastors Juanita and Rudy Rasmus were also attentively active with guests throughout the entire event. Pastor Juanita Ramus spoke about the event’s initiative.
Reynolds: Can you tell us about Prescription: Paint 2013?
Rasmus: Absolutely! The title “Prescription: Paint 2013” came from an arts activist Juanita Smith. I had shared the idea of bringing art to the homeless community. I had experienced Kidney Cancer four years ago; and in the process there is a lot of sitting and waiting. I used art as a way of meditating to keep me centered and grounded during that unique crisis… That experience rocked my world, in the process of that the thing that helped me, along with prayer, was being able to focus on something other than the cancer. Art became this means of connecting with God, the creator as I created my art.
Reynolds: Let’s talk about The Art Project, Houston—how are we able to help the homeless through art in this program? How did you come up with the idea to create the program?
Rasmus: After I gotten through that kidney experience God said “take art to the homeless community, give them an opportunity to tap into the beauty that’s within them.” So The Art Project Houston was born; we provide classes to the homeless community and others who are in transition through the bread of life. In addition we have a class that is every Thursday where we are engaging our students through a curriculum called The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. We are trying to offer art encounters so when we provide meals to the homeless community we also provide some kind of creative activity that they can engage in. Then we provide art experiences where they agree to participate in a class once a week and they are actually moving through journaling which we call Morning Pages…or some type of creative activity that the teacher presents to them. [Today] we have Joe Synan facilitating our class today, Joe is one of our water color artist, so he helps our students with their water color skills. So we have formed a real community collaborative, there are people who have various kinds of creative experiences and they have skills that they bring to our program.
DeCamera has brought an artist out, and they perform for our client; they did an incredible symphony one evening and just blew our clients away. Who would imagine that men and women that have invested in their creative careers in art would come back particularly to the homeless community to lend their expertise?
Reynolds: How can the community participate and support the program?
Rasmus: We’ve created paint parties…Amegy Bank has invited us to provide staff development or staff support. We go out and do paint parties for Amegy staff so that they get to enjoy each other’s company in a creative environment. What that does, it gives our students an opportunity to earn an income because we pay them an hourly wage for hosting those paint parties… we’ve done baby showers, wedding parties, birthday parties and more. We are taking art as an opportunity to empower the men and women that we serve. So often people say, “Well why don’t the homeless get off the street?” Well employment is critical in getting off the street. So that is what we’re doing, trying to use art as a means to help people transition. We have successfully transitioned a number of men and women through our program.
Reynolds: Can you tell me about some specific instances where your clients’ lives have transformed?
Rasmus: One of our artists named Solo is now a tattoo artist; he is engaged in providing quality tattoos in the Bryan/College Station area. He has a house, vehicle, and family… he obtained all of that within three years.
Rasmus: Really, what separates any of us is the capacity to see our lives mean something. What I realized that if a person is constantly called homeless, there is no sense of passion, no sense of forward movement, no vision, and no goal. If I can say that today you are an artist then you can begin to craft something different in the median of oils, acrylic, or textiles then why can’t you also craft something different and new for your life? That’s the whole objective of Prescription: Paint. When you get engaged with your passion, the powers of the universe will support that.
Reynolds: You are truly an inspiration! Can I ask you what your definition of success is?
Rasmus: My allowing God’s mind and God’s will to be seen in my life and in doing so, the will of God in God’s mind being operative in me ministering to the people around me is success. When I’m connected in such a way that I am letting Him flow through me and people don’t have to see me but they see and experience the flow, that’s success.