University hosts auction for work from homeless artists


Photo by Robert Berger

Artist Tomika Torres explains the concept of change in her artwork at the “We Live Here Too” silent auction on Oct. 28.

Written By Robert Berger, Staff Writer

Point Park hosted the Homeless Children’s Education Fund “We Live Here Too” art exhibit and silent auction in the Lawrence Hall Ballroom Oct. 28. Artists who have experienced homelessness were given a chance to display their artwork and make profit.

“Art is an educational tool. The kids get to learn something and express themselves at the same time,” said Susy Robison, manager of outreach and volunteer services for the Homeless Children’s Education Fund.

Artwork including sketches, paintings photographs and sculptures filled the ballroom Friday night as students and the general public were welcome to bid on the pieces. All proceeds from the auctions went directly to the artist.

A quartet of students from the Mount Lebanon High School orchestra performed for the first hour while the artwork was viewed. As the quartet concluded, the artists took to the floor for a chance to express themselves through song and dance performances. A video made by the Homeless Children’s Education Fund also played. Clips of the artists making their work and sharing their thoughts on the show were also aired.

Chatham University senior Grace Enick was responsible for bringing the event together. Enick spent over two hundred hours of work ensuring the artists had all the supplies needed to create their artwork.

“They would just tell me what they needed to make and I would meet them wherever to hook them up with supplies…last year was a success and the youth experiencing homelessness expressed interest in doing it again,” Enick said.

The Homeless Children’s Education Fund is a nonprofit organization that works to support educational needs of Allegheny County children experiencing homelessness. Projects the nonprofit are involved in include holding after school programs, field trips and providing technology to homeless students.

The Education Fund works closely on its projects with the Wood Street 412 Youth Zone. After opening next door to Lawrence Hall last December, the Youth Zone is a central location for homeless youth to go to receive food, legal aid, education and other needs. A 2015 Allegheny Dept. of Human Services Report shows that there are around 250 18-24 year-old homeless people in Allegheny County. The center also serves youth involved in foster programs.

This is the second “We Live Here” art show the Homeless Children’s Education Fund has held. Last October, the Education Fund auctioned off about 60 pieces of artwork at 21st Street Coffee and Tea in the Strip District. This year’s show featured a total of 40 different artists with nearly 200 different pieces up for auction.

Many of the artists attended the show to support others and speak about their own work. Tomika Torres was one of the artists with work on display. Torres said she has personal experience related to the subject matter and uses art to express herself and maintain a positive outlook.

“I’ve had a lot of changes,” Torres said. “I experienced winter homelessness and now I’m a mother, so change in the beginnings is the concept in just about all of my paintings.”

Queen Brazil was another artist in attendance with work on display.

“I’ve sold five pieces and it’s just a wonderful feeling. I waked in and saw everything set up and I just wanted to cry,” Brazil said.

Niecey Hazzard, another artist in attendance with work on display, brainstormed the idea of having the art show last year.

“This was way better than last year, it really grew since last time with people and artwork. We will definitely do something like this again next year,” Hazzard said.