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Artists who have lived on the street get space to create

In Denver, the RedLine gallery reaches out to people who have experienced homelessness to offer them an accessible artistic outlet. In their own words, some of the Reach Studio artists talk about how the program has transformed their lives.

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    Now a story of hope.

    The RedLine art gallery in Denver helps artists who have experienced homelessness and other hardships.

    Here, in their own words, the artists talk about how the Reach Studio program has changed their lives.

  • GONZO, Artist:

    My name's Gonzo. I have been doing art for about 10 years.

    Right now, I'm involved in massive collage works. I started doing art while I was locked up in prison. To me, it was a therapeutical escape. And I just really got hooked.

  • ROBIN GALLITE, Education Director, RedLine Gallery:

    I'm Robin Gallite. I'm the education director at RedLine.

    Reach Studio started because there were two Metro University students who wanted to create a program that — for artists who were experiencing homelessness. We can offer a space to create for people who wouldn't have space to create traditionally. We can offer mentorship.

  • JASON CLARK, Artist:

    My name is Jason Clark. I'm a mixed media artist and designer. I have currently been with Reach 2.5, almost three years now.

    What it's allowed me to do is basically pull myself off the streets, give me a safe haven to express myself in ways, even in frustration, of seeing the drug use and the prostitution and the violence. I was able to come in during the week and actually treat it like a full-time job and escape the trenches of the street life.


    I'm Caroline Pooler. In my 20s, I looked at a prestigious local art school here in Colorado and determined that it was something that I couldn't afford. And it was a dream I had kind of set aside about 30 years ago. And then through RedLine a couple of years back, that school got involved. They got interested in our message about homelessness, street life, that kind of thing.

    And they offered a generous gift of a scholarship to some of us Reach artists, and I was one of the recipients.

  • RISA MURRAY, Artist:

    My name is Risa Murray. And I am a student and I am going to be an art educator.

    There's been so many open doors since I have come to Reach. I hope to go overseas. And I would like to teach for a period of time overseas. And so that's what I would like to do with my teaching certificate.


    Some of the artists sell their work. And that has been wonderful for them. They get 75 percent, and RedLine takes 25 percent back into the program itself.

  • GONZO:

    I have been in about five exhibitions with them. I have sold some pieces that are in professional office areas. My goal this year, I guess, is to get bigger and better at this, but I ain't in it for the money.


    My works of the past two-and-a-half years or so have been reflective of the experience of the street.

    This piece is called Whore, and it's really intense. The color red is used. The eyes are distorted. They're kind of blotted out, wipe away, and the lips are accentuated. There's a piece I did. It was called the Starving Artists series. I basically the mediums, using mediums with a plastic fork.

    It was reflective of the whole encompassing of the whole experience of that street experience, and seeing people digging through trash cans for their meals, standing in sandwich lines.


    Success in the program is sometimes hard to document. I have noticed throughout Reach a lot of the people who came in that were experiencing homelessness, many have kind of transitioned into stable living environments.

    But we can't directly say that's because of us. But I do think that the relationships they build with staff members, with peers in the program and with artists in the community in residence is really the most beneficial part. And that's where I see most of the transformation as an individual.


    I have committed a certain body of work to something I call the Concrete Chronicles, which does speak directly to street life.

    I have taken some of my paintings that are of very natural riverscapes and put them on abandoned building doorways where people sleep. And I want them to look at that and think maybe of something tender in their past or something that might draw them to a better future.


    I think my message is hope. I want people to feel hopeful about life. And I want people to feel joy and that life is worth living. And I think that's another thing about Reach Studio artists, is that they invoke celebration of life itself.


    If you enter these doors and you see the Reach artists working and know what their situation was, and that they're living their dreams out, you know, not to give up on that, no matter what the circumstances, I would like people to take away a certain amount of hope and derive some strength from what we do.

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