By Paige Passman
Gratz College will recognize both Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week during November with an exhibit titled “Coming Home: From Inside Out,” which features portraits and self-portraits of men and women experiencing homelessness.
This is the first time Gratz has hosted the show, according to Jody Klimoss, executive assistant to Gratz President Paul Finkelman.
“The artists’ work that are featured here are based on housing instability,” Klimoss said. “The other participants in the opening are going to be members of the Philadelphia’s Homeless Health Initiative (HHI).”
There will be four to six women coming with their children who have their work shown here, Klimoss said.
“They have worked with Diana [Taflin] Myers in an art program, and through the program they have created self-portraits,” she said.
Myers, who works as a printmaker and a mixed-media artist, will be one of many artists attending the event.
According to Myers, being Jewish helps her connect with her art by being spiritual.
“Curing the world is a big thing and just the spiritual side of what I see in the world is, too,” Myers said. “I love textures and, to me, that’s a way I could touch and feel things spiritually.”
For more than 40 years, she has been a housing consultant specializing in affordable housing for individuals experiencing homelessness and others with special housing needs.
This is the first time that Myers has brought art and affordable housing together.
“I thought this would make a statement about homelessness and how it doesn’t discriminate,” Myers said. “It could also affect almost anyone at any time, and when you look at some of these photos of the original exhibit you see people look just like anybody.”
The concept for Myers was to superimpose black and white portraits of individuals experiencing homelessness onto colored backgrounds.
Myers wanted to highlight how homelessness can affect men, women and children of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and that these individuals and families could look just like any other Americans.
Together with Genny O’Donnell, a photographer and director of the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center (CHOC) in Norristown, she created 18 portraits that have been shared in galleries, as well as community and government forums.
All proceeds from the sale of their work will go directly to the homeless mothers, and 50 percent of the sales of all other work will support HHI’s art program at the People’s Emergency Center (PEC).
The exhibit will run through Dec. 21.
Paige Passman is a freelance writer.