Values Exchange

Why art saves lives

28 Dec 2018
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Why art saves lives

BuzzFeed Video Producer

During the summer of 2013, Lamp Community, a homeless shelter in L.A., held a photography class.

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The artists:

Karen Ivette Zaldana
I was born and raised in El Salvador, San Salvador during the El Salvador Civil War. I always liked music, singing, poetry, letters, and drawing. Homelessness is such a heavy word in itself: the cold concrete, cold weather, thirst, hunger, fear. I decided to reach for help once I figured out I couldn’t do it alone. I reached out to Lamp for help and guidance because I was able to find trust and understanding by speaking to Hayk, Kate, Beth and Allison. My future goals in life and in art are to keep on making art in all shapes and forms as long as I live. Art is saving my life. I am thankful to myself for finally knowing and realizing what great passion I have for art. I will also continue with my mental health recovery. Thank you guys!

Myka Moon
Born to a drug addict mother, Myka Moon grew up in foster care and by the time he was a young adult, he was homeless, calling the streets of LA’s Skid Row home. He learned about Lamp’s programs through a friend and soon after that, Lamp staff helped him get a place at Lamp’s Village. Myka says that the “photo class was a grand bright spot in his life as he loves photography and printing black and white photos in dark rooms.” Myka’s goal in life is to become the artist he really is and find the best spotlight he fits in best. Says Myka, “Art is my everything and with it comes the greatest happiness in life - freedom!”

Mary Rachel Cowles
Let me tell you a story: Once there was a little girl as sweet as an angel. She was like a china doll on a store shelf, blonde hair and olive green eyes. She believed in love. As she grew up to six years old, she learned to hate and fight because her step dad raped her for the first time. She dreams of peace, a peaceful world like the rose and peace tattoo on her left arm. But I know Mary because she is just a small town girl living in a lonely world. She took a Greyhound going anywhere. Oh, yeah, Mary is me: Mary Rachel Cowles and I am going from California dreaming to doing my dreams. Thanks to Lamp Mary has a place. Watch me fly!

Ramiro Puentes
My name is Ramiro Puentes. I was born in Zacatecas, Mexico in 1947. I was an alcoholic, drug addict, and smoker. I quit everything in 1995. In 2009 I became homeless. My first encounter with Lamp happened through a free yoga class in 2012. I became a member of the Fine Arts Program and I am also volunteering there. I have a social worker that helps me a lot. My mentor is Hayk M. He has been a great teacher and a friend. I always wondered about photography. It seemed like an impossible dream for me. Because of my low self esteem I thought that it was not for me, but now I love it! My goal in life is to become a happier person and appreciate all the wonders in the world.

Jeff Cross
I grew up in the Bay Area with my mom and 3 siblings. I had my first bout of depression when I was 19. My family did not understand what was happening to me, and I had to leave. Soon I was homeless. Lamp helped me to stay sane in Skid Row with a safe place to stay, art groups, poetry classes and a team that is helping me find a permanent place to live. I was happy to be given the opportunity to take photos, in my whole life I never really had the means to work with anything but pencil and paper. I want to work with media I haven’t worked with before and maybe have my art featured in a gallery one day again.

K. L. Jackson
My name is Keith L. Jackson. I am 48 years old and was raised in Los Angeles, California. I served in the Military U.S. Army Corp of Engineers from 1983 to 1989. I have worked various jobs, but my proudest position was as a Docent at the California African American Museum for five years. My last profession was as a teacher’s aide for a private company. By October of 2010 I lost my job. Me and my wife struggled to keep up but by mid 2011 we became homeless. We are now living in separate transitional facilities. I have lived at the Weingart Center since February 2001, under the Veterans Program. I was told about the Lamp program and been a part of it ever since. The photo class has helped me extend my creative freedom. I might live in Skid Row but I am not helpless. My ambitions are unlimited as I strive to live a better life.

Gloria McKinney
My journey to Skid Row began with a job loss. I worked for 15 years, the building was sold and the new owner came with a new employee. Without a paycheck I couldn’t pay rent so I gave up my apartment. My family wanted me to stay with them but I did not want to be a problem for anyone. A friend told me about the Union Rescue Mission. I phoned them; they had a bed, that’s where I went. A flyer about LAMP was posted at the building (Renato) where I live now. I became a member. The rest is history. I plan to have a jewelry business on the internet. What I’m learning at Lamp will help me in my business. The photography class is excellent. I have learned so much. Beth is awesome. I am looking forward to the next class.

Joshua Withers
My name is Joshua Withers. I grew up in East Los Angeles, California, US of A! Life in the ghetto teaches you nothing but the truth. I was drawn in the arts of visual, musical, and physical. I have two brothers, a mother and a step father. My biological father is a monster. He kicked me out after beating me like he beat my mother. I then sought out my mother’s guidance, but never found it. I have been wandering the pavement ever since. Before this class I was more of an amateur photographer. I have a billion goals but my future goal in art is to become a comic book artist.

“Prelude in C” by J. S. Bach http://incompetech.com
“Whispering Through” by Asura www.dublab.com
“Kosmiche Slop” by Anenon www.dublab.com
“Cupcake Slumber Party” https://soundcloud.com/starlitevergladesus

Directed and edited by Chandler Evans

Cinematography by Andrew Illnyckyj and Chandler Evans

Photo class given by lampcommunity.org and Beth Stirnam bethshootspeople.com

Disposable cameras donated by samys.com

Special thanks to laxart.org and deviantART.com      




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