My Experience Volunteering with Art From The Streets


My Experience Volunteering with Art From The Streets

by Madeleine Caraluzzi

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to volunteer for a local organization called Art from the Streets (AFTS) that hosts an open studio four days a week for artists who are currently experiencing homelessness, or have in the past. This studio gives these artists a place to work on their craft or to just zen out with a paintbrush in hand.

AFTS has been operating in Austin for 28 years and advocating for the artists in more ways than just providing a communal space to create. They also put on numerous art shows and sell the art online. Ninety-five percent (95%) of the profits go directly to the artist. 

The volunteer experience was peaceful — honestly it would be perfect for a first date. The work was never laborious and the people were wonderful. After the setup, which was mostly the putting out of paints, brushes and water, volunteers were mostly expected to engage with the artists, ask what they're making, explore their work, find out their inspiration. Really, however they wanted to interact with those around them.

Everyone — volunteers and artists alike — seemed happy to be there. I was assigned to stand behind the paint table and help people fill up their palettes. I got to learn the names of each attendee as they chose what colors they wanted and they quickly learned my name, too.

As far as a date goes, there's plenty of time to converse and plenty of discussions to be had. It was a small group of volunteers and the number of attendees was not overwhelming. On slower days, volunteers are welcome to join in on the creation, as I was graciously invited to do a few different times. I, however, knew I wouldn’t be able to create something even half as good as some of the work I saw so I declined. 

One man painted a tranquil beach scene, a memory he had from when he lived in Mexico. Another made a series of abstract paintings she said reminded her of heaven. 

It’s really amazing to get to know someone through the work they create and while there are always new people who come by to see what the open studio has to offer there was a strong sense of tradition and community amongst the participants who likely attend more than once a week. 

Being around artists is always inspiring and the sense of financial purpose the organization offers adds professionalism to the activity.  It was not only pure fun to watch people create, but inspiring to see the immense talent that some hold. This volunteer experience was a simple way to lend my time and my heart. I will definitely be going back to see my friends at AFTS! 

Jody McCrary