Can Art Help Combat Homelessness?

What role does art play in combatting the homelessness crisis facing society today?

Speakers from The Big Issue Foundation, Accumulate and a PHD student from The Royal College of Art recently took part in a conversation facilitated by artist Degard FRSA for Rawthmells, The Royal Society of Art’s 21st century enlightenment coffeehouse.

‘ART with…’ is a new series of talks curated by Degard . The idea for the series came from the government's push of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) in state schools and the focus taken away from the arts - which is STEAM. Further the arts have come under considerable scrutiny in terms of evaluation within government circles. The series seeks to explore the crossover between the arts and other disciplines.

For the first event in the series the theme explored was ‘ART with… Homelessness’. The panel was joined by speakers Stephen Robertson, CEO of The Big Issue Foundation, charitable arm of the magazine The Big Issue that has been offering a ‘hand up’ to homeless people for over 25 years, Marice Cumber from Accumulate, an RSA Catalyst funded organisation who empower homeless youth through creativity, and Shaun Doyle, a PhD student at The Royal College of Art who has incorporated living outdoors into his artistic practice.

In a ‘Parkinson’ style conversation the speakers discussed homelessness and the role that art can play in therapy and rehabilitation, in generating awareness, and in creating public and private spaces to combat the homelessness crisis facing society today. We explored the art created by participants in Accumulate’s programmes and featured in the Big Issue magazine, as well as the effect that living outside has had on Shaun’s artwork, and why he chose this route as an artist and researcher

Degard said ‘it was a powerful evening. The speakers were extraordinary. Stephen Robertson from The Big Issue has such a wealth of knowledge based on many years of experience and expertise research in this area. Marice is clearly championing genuine evidence of how the arts help homelessness. Shaun brought a fresh perspective onto homelessness from a PhD research level. This evening  ended with a number of attendees looking to create a pressure group and actually change an element of society and art! an incredible event!’

Stephen Robertson said “The Big Issue magazine has a long and distinguished history in showcasing a broad spectrum of artistic talent by people experiencing homelessness and other forms of societal marginalisation. A person experiencing someone’s art sees it fresh, without the pre-conceptions and stereotypes that frequently are associated with people living a life outside of mainstream prosperity. As such, art is a leveller, an invitation to engage and explore individual expression.”

“Over the years The Big Issue Foundation has partnered with outsider artists such as Tagzee, Stik & Chewing Gum Ben. Each artist has disruption at heart; playing with form, content and context to engage audiences with ideas first, confound expectations and help us to raise vital funds to support our service and help Big Issue vendors move their lives forward. I am very grateful to Degard for her help in this space, the contribution of our vendors and for the wonderful opportunity to talk at the RSA recently”

Last year, Degard generously offered a percentage of the proceeds from her exhibition as a gift to The Big Issue Foundation. Following the exhibition she asked three Big Issue vendors if they would be willing to be part of an expression of her art. The images feature Degard’s artist impressions of three Big Issue vendors, Andre, Dave and George.

Each impression is for sale at £2,000 with 50% of the proceeds from the sale to be gifted to the vital work of The Big Issue Foundation. If you are interested in purchasing one of these pieces, please contact Serena Crisp at The Big Issue Foundation