My name is Janet Taylor, I am the founder and director of the I Am Home art community. The mission of this art initiative is to provide a safe and nurturing environment where those who find themselves homeless, or at risk of being homeless, can express themselves through art. In the creative process, they experience healing, dignity, and hope.
There are days in one’s life that forever change their world. The day that rocked mine was October 12, 1998. As my daughters and I were walking in downtown Austin, Texas, I spotted a homeless man selling an ashtray he had made with his own hands. Compassion welled up in my children who immediately begged me to buy the ashtray, which I promptly did. As my children rejoiced in their newfound piece of pottery an idea began brewing in my heart: the homeless could make and sell art in order to provide financial stability, a healthy escape, and self-confidence. I was able to spend 2009-2011 as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Sarasota, Florida bringing this thought to fruition. What began with a card table, paint, paper and a few artists that were homeless, exploded into a life of its own. I had the privilege of witnessing the transformation of people who only thought of themselves as homeless to people who now identified as artists. We were on to something life changing and I never wanted it to end.
In January 2017, I moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where I founded the I Am Home art community as an official nonprofit. What I have discovered through facilitating an environment in which the homeless create art is that a brand new identity begins to evolve. They become less identified by their home—or lack of one— but rather, by who they are inside. In the art studio, they can truly see themselves as a creator, artist, and whole human being who is cherished for their imagination. Art also becomes a conduit for creating healthy relationships with others. The participants become close with other homeless people and build bonds with those who exist outside of their community.
I want to thank Patricia Sims, an artist in Asheville, who has believed in what we are doing and supported us financially from day one. I also want to thank Homeward Bound and Haywood St Church who opened their arms to us and provided a space for those who are homeless to create art and Foundation Studios where we are allowed to sell their art and they receive 100% of their sales. And most of all, thank you to God the greatest creator of all, who brought a tiny spark of an idea to life.