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Interfaith Sanctuary opens Homeless Art Collective

The permanent retail space at St. Vincent de Paul's State Street thrift store allows artists experiencing homeless to express themselves while making money.

BOISE, Idaho — A new art collective retail space is helping the homeless - one painting at a time.

Interfaith Sanctuary held the grand opening of their Homeless Art Collective on Saturday. The art collective is a way for artists experiencing homeless to express themselves in a creative way - while making money for their work.

"Such an important part of getting out of homelessness is finding a safe space, and being able to tap into things that can improve your mental health," Interfaith Sanctuary Executive Director Jodi Peterson-Stigers said. "Art is really important to certain people. It's kind of a lifeline."

The permanent retail space is located at St. Vincent de Paul's thrift store at 6464 West State Street.

Through the collective, artists are able to sell and make money off their creations.  

10 artists were featured in the art collective's grand opening Saturday. There were more than 100 handmade pieces showcased, including paintings, drawings, jewelry, dreamcatchers and candles. 

One artist named Karen created metallic watercolor paintings as a way to express herself. All three of her paintings sold within an hour of the collective's opening.

"It was quite an experience. I mean, I made some contact with people who were buying my things, which was very special," Karen said. "For us, it's been a way of expression of many things. I did a painting of a Ukrainian woman, in solidarity with what's happening with them. Another one was of three generations of trauma, the traumatic experience that's passed on through the DNA. So for me, it's been a process of rediscovering myself as an artist, but also expressing myself politically and socially."

Saturday's grand opening was a chance for the artists to meet people who value their work, and for members of the community to support the artists while spreading hope and encouragement. 

"Usually when I make a piece, I gift it, so I've never really sold them before," artist Ashley Parks said. "So, this has been a brand-new experience for me - learning how to price, and building up stock and inventory and all this other stuff. It's been a really great experience. It feels really cool to have my art up here, and just the fact that people are enjoying it so far, it's really great. It's boosting my confidence for sure."

For other artists, the collective is a chance to reconnect with their love for art. Like Jonathan Asher, an artist who creates paintings through acrylic pouring on canvas. Asher was an artist throughout his time in school, and was able to hone his art skills again through Interfaith's program. 

"Doing something that you're passionate about, I think is very important," Asher said.

The art collective's opening was also a way for some artists to build their social skills. One artist named dAni drAke created art for the collective that allows him to express his feelings in a non-vocal way. 

"For the most part, just the excitement people are sharing, to be here and see all the different art pieces, see all the different artists," drAke said. "To get their feedback kind of gives you that warm and fuzzy [feeling]." 

Sales from the art collective go to the artists. Interfaith's Homeless Art Collective is a permanent retail space that allows artists to run their own art businesses through the program.

"It's selling quickly, which is really exciting," Peterson-Stigers said. "A lot of people have come, and the artists are here, so they're getting to meet the people who actually made the art. I think it is such an important thing for those artists to be seen. They were all so nervous, like, 'I don't know how to place value, I wonder if no one thinks it's worth anything.' And then to see people taking their stuff to the cash register, and cashing out - I'm watching the transformation happen because of it."

Interfaith Sanctuary's Homeless Art Collective was selected as one of this year's TEGNA Foundation Grant Recipients. TEGNA is KTVB's parent company. The donation was used to purchase art supplies and materials for artists before the collective's opening. 

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