Art by homeless draws community interest

Pasadena Star News

By Robert S. Hong
Staff Writer

While working with the Police Department’s homeless outreach team, Officer Victor Cass noticed a dearth of programs for homeless people who have no drug or alcohol issues.

“I thought, ‘What about the families who are doing everything right? It would be good to provide something for them,”’ Cass recalled.

A full-time cop and a part-time artist, Cass said the idea dawned on him to create a free art program for homeless people. A short time later, at a local Starbucks, Cass bumped into Trisha Garcia, an old friend and artists assistant at the Armory Center for the Arts, and told her about his idea.

Garcia brought the concept to Armory officials, then word spread to Union Station and Passageways, two related homeless services centers.

The result is “Art By Families In Transition,” an exhibit of art created entirely by the area’s homeless. The exhibit is on display through Nov. 30 at the Armory Center for the Arts, 145 N. Raymond Ave. The display is the culmination of two months of work and accomplishment.

“It really puts a different face on how people look at the homeless,” Cass said. “I feel this is something (the participants) are going to take with them.”

Roxanne Cooperstone attended the art classes with her son, Jake.

“I was totally blown away by it from the first minute we got there,” she said. “It was a very nurturing, welcoming and all-inclusive environment.”

Cass and other instructors provided lessons in painting and drawing, with separate sessions for adults and children.

“It was interesting,” said student Paul de Vine. “It gave me an avenue to experience things I hadn’t thought about even trying. It was also good to have relief from an already hectic environment.”

Garcia, who also assisted with the art instruction, said the program was a good outlet for the students’ energies.

“I thought it allowed them to be creative and express themselves, and that can really empower them,” Garcia said.

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