Biola Student’s Art Exhibit Restores Dignity to Homeless in Downtown L.A.

Apr. 23, 2013 By Jessica Airey

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — On May 9, 2013, in conjunction with the L.A. Art Walk, a temporary art gallery will open to exhibit 12 portraits modeled after residents of the homeless community in downtown Los Angeles. This project, called Sacred Streets, focuses on social engagement by ascribing dignity, value and beauty to the lives of individuals from the Skid Row district.

The portraits created by local artist and Biola University student Jason Leith were drawn in the city while he interacted with the homeless community and designed using discarded objects found there. Leith also used reclaimed debris to construct the temporary gallery located on San Julian Street. The site sits a few blocks down from the L.A. Art Walk main fairway in a lot next to the Union Rescue Mission.

The public is invited to visit the gallery free of charge and all donations will go to further fund initiatives to help the homeless community in the surrounding area. Sacred Streets hopes to combine art and social engagement with an innovative holistic integration. Leith’s vision for this gallery is both to benefit and candidly involve his subjects in each portrait’s creation.

“My process begins on the street level, walking past tents, trash heaps, and soup lines on Skid Row, drawing materials in hand. I want to know the people from this community on a personal level, and the best way I know of connecting with them is to make portraits,” said Leith. “To draw a person, in person, is for me a means of being present and attentive to the dignity in them.”

The canvases include old cardboard, rusted metal pieces, scrap wood and used frames abandoned by their owner as trash. The use of these elements themselves serves a symbolic purpose.

“I draw these portraits on reclaimed objects that have stories somewhat parallel to the people depicted — stories of being found again and renewed. And in the end, I'm interested in the possibility of re-imagining these people and this world in terms of a deep and pervasive sacredness.”

Free shuttle service from nearby lot, Joe’s Parking, to the gallery will be available on May 9. The show will run until May 14. To find more information or to preview the exhibit, visit www.sacredstreets.org.

For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Specialist, at 562.777.4061 or jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

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