This documentary tells the story of how art transformed and literally saved the lives of a group of talented homeless and formerly homeless men and women -- fine arts painters -- who live and make their art in the worst area of Los Angeles, known as Skid Row.
For four years, we have followed the lives and progress of several artists from LA's Skid Row, reported to be the largest concentration of homeless people in America. We use several techniques to tell the stories including cinema verite, interviews and narration. Spontaneous moments from their lives, intimate interviews and their evolving artwork and life's progress are documented. We meet oil, acrylic and watercolor painters, charcoal, pen and crayon sketchers and collage makers. Some artists find their art supplies in garbage cans and dumpsters. They draw on old paper bags. Many have joined Art Workshops led by dedicated and remarkable artist/social workers and are given paint, canvases, frames, easels and the technical, creative and supportive guidance to create stunning, often therapeutic, works of art. Several of these Art Workshop members have shown - and sold - their work in downtown Los Angeles galleries. Their tight-knit Skid Row community nourishes their artistic abilities.
Art changed their lives dramatically. One woman told us that coming to the workshop is the only reason she has for getting up in the morning. A directionless hustler has become a known, respected painter and employed community leader. A shy immigrant who creates, in classic primitive style, riotously colorful scenes from his childhood in a tiny Mexican village has suffered a major setback - he's been admitted to art school at University of California, Berkeley, and awarded a scholarship but can't attend due to his immigration status. One artist was a 12-year old runaway from an Indian Reservation in 1941 and has been on the streets of Skid Row ever since. Art has given their lives meaning and a reason for existence. There are many stories among the artists of LA's Skid Row and unimagined talent to bring to the attention of a wide audience.
"With great warmth and dedication, this modest production, four years in the making, profiles a community of artists and social workers on downtown L.A.'s Skid Row, one of the largest homeless populations in the country. The film focuses on two social workers who also serve as art mentors and the homeless (or formerly homeless) artists whose work they encourage and support, one employed at the SRO Housing Corporation, the other at the Lamp Community. It blends probing interviews, vividly affecting personal testimonies, and informative narration to cast a moving and revelatory light on the lives of all involved -- the social networks based on a shared faith in the transformative and therapeutic power of art. The artists featured work primarily in fine arts media, including watercolor, charcoal, acrylics, crayon, and collage; several have had gallery showings. One of the most poignant figures profiled is prevented by his immigration status from attending a prestigious art school to which he was awarded a scholarship. Recommended for large public libraries and academic collections serving interests in social work and art therapy."
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