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Art exhibition aims to capture struggles of homeless youths

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Shane Bradford works on his painting at Star House. Credit: Courtesy of Juli Sasaki

Shane Bradford works on his painting at Star House. Credit: Courtesy of Juli Sasaki

The concrete walls of Ohio State’s Knowlton Hall are set to feature an art exhibition that challenges the stereotypes of homelessness.

The art show is being put on by The Visible Invisible, a student organization, in conjunction with MINT Collective, a Columbus-based group of multidisciplinary artists, and Star House, a university-assisted drop-in center for homeless youth in Central Ohio.

On display will be art created by some of the homeless youth receiving services from Star House, members of The Visible Invisible and artists from MINT Collective. A documentary the student organization filmed, which tells the stories of a former homeless youth and a young person in transition who spent time at Star House, will also debut.

“You probably see (homeless youths) on High Street, and you just don’t know it,” said Juli Sasaki, primary leader of The Visible Invisible. “We’re hoping the show will make people less scared and break the stereotypes of homelessness.”

The Visible Invisible is a relatively new organization on campus. It was officially recognized in Autumn 2015, although the vision for the club has origins from well before then.

Sasaki, a second-year in arts management, spearheaded a photography project while volunteering for Star House in July 2014. Using cameras that had been donated to Star House, the youths were given a crash course on how to use cameras and instructed to go around Columbus, documenting parts of their lives.

Sasaki said the prompt was to “capture something visible to you but invisible to everyone else.”

What was depicted in the images unearthed harrowing realities about the lives of the homeless young people in Columbus. Looking to project these truths for a larger audience, Sasaki organized an exhibition at the Global Gallery in Clintonville where the photographs were displayed.

The event was a major success, with many of the attendees raving about the impact the art had and asking if more exhibitions were planned for the future, Sasaki said. It helped plant the seed for the creation of The Visible Invisible.

After taking a year off from school in Europe, Sasaki and a few friends began cultivating the work for fall. Dorian Bell, a fourth-year in public affairs, said a brainstorming session was held on how to continue engaging Columbus’ homeless youths.

“Art is what stuck,” said Bell, who is also the group’s treasurer.

A collaborative art project that will be on display in the art show on April 8. Credit: Courtesy of Hannah Torma

A collaborative art project that will be on display in the art show on April 8. Credit: Courtesy of Hannah Torma

The Visible Invisible started hosting art classes at Star House every Saturday afternoon in the fall. Some of the classes have themes or a particular kind of art as the focus, said Sandy Sechang, a fourth-year in city and regional planning and the group’s secondary leader. Those can range from Mexican metal art to monochromatic self-portraits to knitting.

However, those are just suggestions for what to try, said Hannah Torma, a member of The Visible Invisible. It’s not like a middle-school art class where creating the different styles is required.

“We really like to encourage them to work on whatever they want to work on,” Torma said. “Whatever appeals to them.”

The reason for that is because it’s intended to be a relaxed space where youths can express themselves through art while helping dissolve stereotypes one brush stroke at a time. It’s more about the social aspect than the art itself, Torma said.

Attendance at the classes can fluctuate week by week, but for some, like Shane Bradford, it’s an essential part of their Saturday.

Bradford used to frequent Star House from October until January, when he enrolled in classes at OSU. The first-year in psychology said he still makes the near 30-minute walk each Saturday to make art.

“It’s always a lot of fun,” Bradford said. “It’s a great feeling to make art while not being graded or criticized. Everyone is always so positive about what we make, too.”

At the event on Friday, one of Bradford’s paintings is a part of a large-scale collaborative piece. Bradford’s was a yellow smiley face with the words “positiveness” and “hope” painted in black. He is also one of the two people featured in the documentary.

“I painted that because it’s what drives me,” Bradford said, adding that he feels with art, “the meaning behind it is usually what’s important.”  

The Visible Invisible wishes to use Friday’s show as a catalyst to continue eroding false ideas about homelessness, particularly the youth suffering.

“We’re hoping to keep taking down the barriers,” Sechang said.

The art exhibition held in the Knowlton Hall Gui Auditorium will take place Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.

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