Episode 3: Art on the Margins

Hear the ways that people use coloring to cope, writing to roam, and music to reclaim.
It’s like, “Here. Okay. Finally, you all understand now? You all see? This is what I’ve been doing. This is what I enjoy doing. This is…me.”

[Intro music plays]

Dale: “I mean–I’ve died on the streets so many times”

Analyn: I say are you helping me to get out of this or are you taking my kid from me? I just had that feeling.

Marissa: “My new lover now thinks that he keeps saying, “Be stronger.” But I am stronger. There’s the difference.”

Eryka: I would definitely rather walk down an alley than down the street.

Donjuan: “But I was always kind of in the gut of the city, so to speak, looking for things, trying to – curious. Even here, just curious and roaming.”

Nicole: When I get stressed out, I’ll color. Or if my mind starts thinking too much, coloring is how I cope with a lot of – just about everything, actually.

Lucky: and pretty much he saw the crown that I wear on top of my head which is invisible to most, sometimes even me.

[end intro music]

Alison: Hi everyone, welcome back to When you are homeless, this is Episode 3 and we’ll be talking about art and how art and stories and creativity plays a part in our storytellers. I’m Alison, I’m here with Blake. And before we get into Episode 3, we wanted to talk a little bit about — by now, hopefully you’ve been able, you’ve gotten a chance to hear Donjuan and Nicole’s stories, we gave you two this week. We just wanted to talk a little bit about some quick impressions. How bout, we’ll start with you, Blake, what were your first thoughts?

Blake: Sure. I mean, I’ll speak to Donjuan a little bit, since I interviewed him. You know, I met him in St. Francis Center to do a resume and we started to talk about Wes Anderson — I might have told this story —

Alison: Yeah, I think you did, yeah.


Alison: That’s okay!

Blake: So, anyway, we’ll skip past that part. But I remember from the interview, what I really remember about interviewing Donjuan, is just how soft-spoken he was, and yet how powerfully felt a lot of his emotions were. The things that he had gone through and stuck with him. I remember thinking of him as a person who was extremely well-centered in terms of his identity in relation to his family. He has this whole part that, if you haven’t listened to the story and go back to it, you’ll hear him talk about the things that he feels like he got from his father; the things that he feels like he got from his mother. And the tension that he feels between one and the other. So that’s one of the things that I remember most about him is that really concrete sense of who he was. And that extended beyond his sense of family to his sense of identity around art.

Alison: Definitely.

Blake: Which we’ll talk about today.

Alison: There’s that part also where he talks about, he knows exactly what he needs. He’s like, “I don’t need much but I need a coffee shop, I need a thrift store,” I forget the other things that he mentioned.

Blake: That’s right. Yeah, he has very specific designs on what will make his future work. At a certain point he talks about a precise number of dollars that he’s close to having but doesn’t have in order to get this apartment. He has a very specific idea of what the apartment that he would want to have would look like, where it would be, how close it would need to be to things that he would want to photograph, et cetera. You’ll see that, if you haven’t listened, that he’s got this photography project in mind, which is really interesting and part of what made him a great interview.

Alison: Yeah, so if you haven’t had a chance, definitely go back and listen to Donjuan.

Blake: Yeah, he’s great. Also his name, right? There’s the whole story about his name is kind of a thing that I’ll spare you me summarizing it now, but you should go back and listen to. But essentially it comes from a novel that — his parents were naming him after a character.

Alison: And — I mean, not to keep harping on that — but I will say, that it’s so interesting how he says, “Everyone thinks I’m a womanizer, cuz of my name,” and he’s definitely not that.

Blake: Totally.

Alison: So there’s this, kind of, beautiful irony.

Blake: That’s right, that’s right. And then, tell us a little bit, Alison, if you would, about Nicole.

Alison: Yeah, Nicole is also quite soft-spoken, I think.

Blake: Yes.

Alison: Yeah, she was really, I really liked speaking with her because she really gave questions thought. Like, she kind of allowed herself to pause a lot. And I think that really, what, a lot what she was doing, if you were able to hear her story, is that, she really was comparing, what stuck out to me, she’s really comparing the second time that she’s experiencing homelessness with previous times — it might be more than the second, but, when I spoke with her she was currently experiencing homelessness, but she had such, she had been clearly doing so much reflective work on it, and felt in such a different place than she had previously in life. She had all those comments about now I’m not drinking, like, I tried that last time and that didn’t work. I’m not angry this time.

Blake: I’m not angry, she said. Because I realize this time that it’s my fault.

Alison: Right.

Blake: That line really is memorable to me. She was so clear-headed about so many things. That she had gone through. It was really striking. And just that unassuming voice, and the kind of, like, dramatic levels of trauma, really, that she’s been through. It reminded me frankly of, like, the narrator inOne Hundred Years of Solitude. This like brick-faced monotone. But if you actually listen to the words you’re like, oh my god, this is really terribly what this person is going through. And so it made it even more compelling to me, that she was so even about it. It made me realize oh, no, this might mean that she’s been through like even more than she’s talking about.

Alison: Right. It’s like, wisdom was coming through in her voice.

Blake: Totally, totally. So yeah, we hope you had a chance to check those out. If you haven’t, you might wanna go back through and see on the website what there is. And maybe now is not a bad time to remind you that we’ll also be posting periodically a number of links and supplemental materials related to the stories you’re hearing from us and from the storytellers. We’ll have links to things we mention throughout the podcast episode. And I’ll try to do my best to mention that as we go through. But as Alison said, today we’re gonna focus this episode on this issue of the role that art might play in the roles of some of our storytellers’ lives. That was a pattern we saw repeat in a couple of different ways. And so, we’ve got some quotes from a number of different people that we’ve interviewed whose stories either have or have not dropped. So this could be a thing that you look for down the line as you see their episodes get released. Did you wanna start, Alison, with any specific thoughts about art in general as it relates to this question of homelessness?

Alison: Yeah, I mean, I guess I will just bring up a few kind of projects I found. There’s a program in Oklahoma City called Fresh StART and it’s kinda this neat program where they do kind of a regular art show. And 80% of the profits — so, art show, showing pieces done by people experiencing homelessness and when those pieces are sold, I think the artists get 80% of the profits, or 80% of the cost, rather. And then right here in Denver there’s, The Gathering Place has The Card Project where women create these cards and they’re sold, kind of like greeting cards, they draw, they paint them — they’re really beautiful and they’re kind of sold throughout different coffee shops in Denver.

Blake: I’m curious, since you worked there, have you seen this project unfold in anyway, or…?

Alison: I don’t know if I’ve seen it unfold. There’s like the space where it happens.

Blake: I see.

Alison: And then I’ve seen them around different shops in Denver. Before I started working there, I was like, “This is pretty.” But I never really knew what it was about. So it does seem that, there is, people are very aware that art and self expression are very important for people experiencing homelessness.

Blake: Yeah, and I’ll add to that that, you know, for a little while I was connected to Red Line Art Gallery and studio space, which is right behind St. Francis Center, in Denver. And there were programs and programming that were in some ways tailored to helping people experiencing homelessness work on their art in some ways. And I think it was Devin and his story who specifically mentioned Red Line’s a place where he would go to kind of relax and turn off the part of him that was worried about what was happening to himself and put himself maybe in a little bit more of an artistic frame of mind. And it’s certainly the case that there’s all kinds of cultural references we can talk about related to the idea of art created by people experiencing homelessness. I think I told you I’m in the middle of this book —

Alison: Yeah —

Blake: By Lars Eihner, I think that’s how you pronounce his name, I’ll have to check. It’s a memoir. Many people out there, I’m sure you’ve probably read it, it’s been listed recently as one of the top 25 best memoirs of the 20th century. It was written in the late ’80s by a man, a gay man experiencing homelessness, who kind of road-trips from Austin to LA and back.

Alison: What’s the title of the book?

Blake: Yeah, thank you! [laughter] The title of the book is Travels with Lizbeth.

Alison: That’s right.

Blake: And Lizbeth is his dog. So it’s kind of a road trip story. But his voice is just so sharp and like cynical in the most endearing, gracious way. It’s hard to imagine how a character can be so sharply observant and cynical and that endears a character to you. Like you just want this guy to narrate your life as you’re walking by so that you can sort of smirk and cackle at things.

Alison: [laughter] right.

Blake: He’s just a really good observer of what he sees.

Alison: And, it’s not a journal, right, he’s writing it after the fact?

Blake: It’s after the fact, that’s right, that’s right. And the reason I think to bring up that, is because so often in this journey he talks about the art that he creates, which in his case was short stories. Particularly short stories for gay magazines. And in his case, he was actually able to make a few bucks by selling these short stories. I mean, to someone like me who pretends to be a short story writer, that’s insane, I didn’t think anyone was making money off of short stories since, like, F. Scott Fitzgerald in the ’20s for the Saturday Evening Post or something. But apparently he was doing it in the ’80s. Which is super impressive. But like, the story’s littered with times where he’s just like on the side of the road, writing on a napkin. He writes scripts for people once he gets to LA, for adult movies, which is really hilarious and interesting. So the presence of art in his life is really there as you read the story. And for that reason I thought to mention it.

Alison: Yeah, that’s interesting. It makes me think, too, a few women I encountered at The Gathering Place, they talked — one in particular, I remember she mentioned, “I would love to write but I literally don’t have the space. I need a table and I don’t have a table.” So it’s interesting to think of him writing on napkins and, like, it really just brings up the materiality of art.

Blake: Yeah, art is really, I think for people experiencing homelessness that I’ve worked with, it’s a physical thing. It really is. Even when it’s writing. They literally just sometimes need a pen. [laughter]

Alison: Right, yeah.

Blake: And a piece of paper.

Alison: And a notebook, yeah.

Blake: It’s true. And then, thinking about the fact that we were gonna make this episode, I also re-watched The Soloist, this movie, about a journalist, Steve Lopez at The LA Times, in the same period of time, actually, the late ’80s, I believe. Oh no, that’s actually not right at all, it was in the early 2000s.  And he came across this violinist playing on the side of the street, a homeless man, and interviewed him. And established a relationship with him over years. The relationship persists today. And out of this comes a bunch of columns that he wrote for The LA Times about Nathaniel. But it turns out that this guy, Nathaniel, had gone to Juilliard and then had to drop out because of problems with mental illness. And he’d been on the street for a long time. And for him — and I’ll be curious to see how this relates to the stories we hear from our project today — it was just an absolute necessity for him to play the violin. It had nothing to do with trying to make a living, or trying to get by, or trying to get published, or any of the other things that sometimes are the case, understandably so for people experiencing homelessness; this guy just really wanted to play. And he in fact was playing with a violin that had two strings.

Alison: Wow.

Blake: Cuz that’s what he had.

Alison: I was just gonna say, something kind of scary about that is when you, when that’s kind of your one solace and it’s a thing — and we’ve heard so much about people getting things stolen and broken and lost — did the movie address that at all, about, maybe the temporary nature of the violin?

Blake: Yeah, it does. I mean, that’s a good question. Because, at a certain point pretty early on, the journalist writes this piece that’s well received and someone reads it and feels bad when they read the part about how he only has an instrument with two strings and so, this woman donates this cello that he can play.

Alison: He’s like, I don’t know the cello.

Blake: And there’s a whole scene. And he’s like, getting to know the cello, playing it. But the journalist tells him, look, I can’t just give this to you because you’re gonna have it stolen. So I’m gonna put it at a shelter and you can play it there. And he has this big argument about it, because the guy just does not wanna go to a shelter. He’s like, I really wanna play in the tunnels here where the cars go by, the sound is better, I like the way that it feels. And it’s just like, it takes some convincing for him to decide to be, that he’s gonna be willing to go to this place to play. So yeah, a lot of those practical questions emerge quite quickly.

Alison: Is that maybe a good time to transition to our storytellers and how they’re experiencing art?

Blake: I think so. I think so. We’ll just tell you up front I guess, maybe, the specific storytellers whose stories have something to do with this issue. And then we’ll give you some excerpts from their stories, to give you a better sense of how art plays a role for them. The people that we’ll be excerpting from are Lucky, Donjuan, Nicole, and Devin. And before we get to those four, I do wanna just say that Dale is another storyteller that I interviewed who clearly has much to do and to say about music, as a guy who crafted his own speakers for years. But he was also a composer of music. He, at one point in his story, describes how he was asked to compose and play at a wedding of his wife’s mother. So, we’re not giving you all the stories, just the ones that we maybe feel are the most central, possibly, to the storytellers’ lives that we’ve chosen.

Alison: Yeah, so stay tuned, look for Dale’s story. We’ll start with Lucky. Who you heard a few weeks ago, hopefully, if you got a chance. And just as a brief reminder, she describes herself as a musician, she’s a singer, she’s a sound engineer. She also said she’s a cellist, actually, which is interesting. And so we’ll just play you this one clip from her story.


You know, that’s just crazy how drugs can just make you forget that you have responsibilities and that you have to walk around with an identity and that you have to have a job and that you – like I love music, like I said. I used to go to live shows every other week. I haven’t been to a live music performance in a year and a half and that just is like crazy to me. It blows my mind. So I told my babe, I said, “July 19th is Global and I want to go. Like we have to go.”

Like that is like the next thing we need to put money into. And the reason why we have to go is because that’s how I know I’m getting me back. That’s how I’ll know that I’m going down the right road is because that doesn’t make sense to me how I haven’t been able to go see some live music. And yeah, that seems very simple but it’s the simplicity of life that lets you know that you are living.

Blake: In that quote, you can really see how central music is to her sense of self, right?

Alison: Yeah. I thought it was interesting, cuz, if you’ve heard her story, she, she’s been on, kind of hit the bottom a bit, and that music is this sort of indicator, this art that she’s loved so much and, as you said, she really identifies with it, it becomes her indicator, like, I’m feeling good again because I want to go see this show. Like I’m feeling I need to get back into my life and that is through music.

Blake: And now that I’m thinking about the rest of her story, I’m only now putting it together that the worst parts of her story are completely devoid of any reference to music.

Alison: Definitely, right. It falls away.

Blake: It’s notable. Especially given how much she talks about it elsewhere.

Alison: Right.

Blake: Another storyteller for whom we have in excerpt about a similar thing is Donjuan, and I say a similar thing meaning someone who’s clearly passionate about art, and for whom the making of art matters greatly. So, there’s no need to overstate the introduction, I’ll just give you a chance to listen to Donjuan here, talking about a project that he’s working on called Four Seasons in a Day. Here it is.

Donjuan: Springs, take pictures. Since November. It’s just like get up. I check my email. I go – I walk around looking for something to take pictures of and I write in my notebook. I keep my notebook on me. I got like nine of them, full, a backpack full. Then I transfer it to a composition notebook or that was my – I have my camera with me. I wanted to be – literally, I’m working on a thing called “Four Seasons in a Day.” “Four season in a day,” is literally dedicated to my family. It’s not for nobody else. It’s strictly for them, because they always wonder where I’m at mentally. Everybody always wondering where I’m mentally. So, I just want to show them. You know, like, my whole family, like aunties, everybody, cousins. It’s like, “Here. Okay. Finally, you all understand now? You all see? This is what I’ve been doing. This is what I enjoy doing. This is what me.”

Alison: I really love that excerpt from Donjuan’s story. I just feel a lot of artists can really relate to that, where he feels he really can’t tell his family what he’s about. The only way he can do it is through art.

Blake: Yeah, it’s really his purpose every day. I mean, he mentioned it only explicitly here and I think in maybe one or two other places, but it’s clear that that’s almost why he decided to journey forth without a job.

Alison: Right.

Blake: And few prospects. Was that he wanted this space to have the freedom to do this sort of thing. And so for him he’s got this, like, driving purpose. Which actually Lars talks about in his book a little bit, he talks about how for him when he was going to LA, it felt like he had a purpose, cuz at the end of it there was gonna be a job potentially — that didn’t work out — and then, so he decided to go back to Austin, and when he got there, that was when homelessness really hit him. Because that was the first time where he realized, there’s nothing that I’m really looking for now, I’m just trying to survive. And he has this beautiful passage where he describes like the listlessness of every day, the way that time bends and elongates and shortens, and every day is basically the same. And as beautiful as that writing was, when I think about it in terms of Donjuan, I don’t see it. I think that for him, he’s got such a burning passion for this project. And every day he’s got his camera, like he says in his excerpt, he’s got that purpose.

Alison: Right.

Blake: And it matters, pretty much, it’s what keeps him going. That’s the sense that I get.

Alison: Absolutely. And it, um, in a way that’s the opposite way that our, the next excerpt will give you. Well, it’s Nicole, and Nicole kinda seems — she came to art in a very different way. Whereas Donjuan is perhaps pursuing art, art kind of came to Nicole when she was at, in a really bad place. You’ve heard her story now, so you remember she kind of starts — she basically locks herself in her room, for her drug use, and it’s in her room where she starts doing art. So, we’ll let her tell you about that.

Nicole: I sheltered myself, because I mainly stayed at home in my room. I guess it was because I couldn’t put my son in – make him stay in his room. So the drug use was being done in my room, so that way my kids could have the rest of the house.

Well, I got into the mind therapy books, the coloring books. And actually, I got into it when I was doing the drugs. I would sit there and I would color.

Blake: Yeah, I mean, for her it’s pure therapy. It’s a way of soothing herself, it seems. Which is, given her story, it’s really touching. And there’s a certain tender, almost like childlike quality to, at least my vision of her doing this.

Alison: Yeah — I don’t know if I would agree with “childlike,” actually, but — maybe. I mean she just seems so focused, and like how she says it would take her three days —

Blake: It’s meticulous work for her.

Alison: It is meticulous. And it’s almost a professional pursuit. I actually did ask her if she sells them, and she said no. But I think she could. They’re very detailed.

Blake: I think the reason I think to mention this connection to a childlike quality, is that my partner has a six-year-old who is as exacting and as precise in coloring and will spend three hours on a single piece —

Alison: And they’re thinking about which color goes where, they’re not just color color color.

Blake: That’s right, it’s a very conscious decision and it’s very, you can tell, extremely soothing for this kid who’s had in some ways, you know, a difficult time with it. Maybe that was just a personal connection.

Alison: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I mean the adult coloring books kind of hit the scene for a reason. Like flared up in popularity and I think it was for coping.

Blake: Yeah. And then, I guess we’ll transition now into a fourth excerpt, this one is from Devin. Devin is, if you recall from our first episode, a man, a young man who came from Raleigh to Denver. And has been just trying to get his feet on the ground here. At the time that I interviewed him, he was pretty new to town. And he, in his spare time often writes poetry, and at a certain point in the interview, he recited a poem, so. Here is Devin reciting a poem.


I write poetry on my own. I can be on the bus. I’ve got this app on my phone. I just write poetry. I’ve got a lot of good poetry.

Blake [recorded earlier]: Which makes me think to ask, writing is like a big outlet for you.

It’s a big outlet.

I’ve already got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten already done. And they’re long, too, man. This one is called “Swift like Music.” It says,

She who smiles in the light
prowls in the dark for self-understanding.
He who fights in the day
moves to the light to understand.

With no way to put her life on pause,
she maintains the full confusion.
Open the door to a castle.
He comes in swift like music.

He’s polluted.
She’s influenced.
But they dance Monday and Tuesday.
After Tuesday, the college student
only wanted to shoot music.

Down the row he went
and chased the woman who flinched
only to find out she was all he meant.

That’s “Swift like Music.”

Blake: He was so excited to do this. I, I kind of, I did specifically ask, but he did not hesitate.

Alison: Right.

Blake: And it was probably the most at peace that I saw him in the interview. Most of the interview I could see him as he was talking just trying to sort out, like how did he even wanna tell this story. Not that he was withholding at all.

Alison: Did he seem a little nervous, maybe

Blake: I think he was. I think he was a little nervous. I remember that vividly actually, now that you mention it. But when it came to that, there was a confidence in his voice that maybe you just heard.

Alison: Yeah, and definitely go back to the transcript, y’all, and study that poem. Cuz there’s some really, really fascinating lines in it.

Blake: That actually connect, I would say, to many of the things that he talked about in his larger story. I’ll just make a brief note. I know that the sound quality in that one is rough, cuz I was interviewing  him in a coffee shop cuz this was the first interview for this project. And I don’t think Alison and I yet even understood that we were doing a podcast with these interviews.

Alison: No, no,

Blake: So —

Alison: So that’s the one with the espresso machine, pops in every now and then?

Blake: That’s right, that’s right.


Blake: So, welcome to the world of amateur podcasting, listeners. We’re really sorry about that.


Alison: Read the transcript.

Blake: Maybe it adds some authenticity.

Alison: Yeah!

Blake: That’s gonna be my spin on it, anyway.

Alison: I think it’s good. So yeah, I think we, we, the samples we picked show a pretty diverse range of the way people experiencing homelessness are using art. And then the movies you talked about earlier, I think also show ways that art comes from the homeless community. I think there’s sort of another layer to this, which is people making art about homelessness, who are not experiencing homelessness. There’s one, there’s a project I came across called We Are All Homeless, not to be confused with When you are homeless, which is the podcast you are listening to. And so We Are All Homeless is this guy, he goes around buying peoples’ signs, like the signs they’re flying for change or whatever, and then he displays them in art shows. And his name is Willie Baronet — I might have mispronounced that, but he’s, the website weareallhomeless.org, he’s purchased more than 1300 homeless signs over 24 years and makes these installations. And there’s also a movie about it, which is on that same website. So, pretty fascinating project, and I think it, um, I mean it’s similar to what we’re doing, right? And Blake and I have thought a lot about this, about how, how we are representing other peoples’ stories.

Blake: Yeah, and I think to give a little context to his project — I had a chance to look at the video introduction — so part of what he did, is he just took a long long road trip from like Seattle down to San Diego through Arizona then up to Denver, all the way over to New York, stopping along the way whenever he saw someone with a sign. And the buying of the signs, that’s how he collected all these, but it was also, each time he did it it was a gateway into conversation, to just talk to someone about something. So in my head, the way that I envision the project is like, the art isn’t just the big compilation of signs, it’s what that evokes of all these conversations and experiences that he had along this road trip, which is a really fantastic and cool idea.

Alison: It, and it’s fantastic and cool for that reason, and it does, it forces you to also think about, again, material, materiality. Cuz my first question really was how much does he pay for the signs? And that question is kind of funny, but it also really matters.

Blake: And I think we’re especially attuned to it, because we did pay our interviewees, our storytellers to be a part of this. And I know that Alison and I have both probably, in our own private moments, wondered to ourselves, oh my god, are we in any way, like, exploiting people for the sake of creating something artistic about this? We’re really, we’re really trying our best to not do that. And yet I, you have to ask that question every time you see any kind of art that is about this.

Alison: Right.

Blake: And it was certainly the case, explicitly, in The Soloist, you see it. Steve Lopez, the journalist, gets called out.

Alison: Oh, really? Cuz he was getting lots of awards and —

Blake: He was getting awards, you see the scene where he gets the award, his ex-wife is sitting next to him and drunkenly kind of like, lays into him, like, “Oh, you’ve got a book deal now.” Which, of course, really did happen and The Soloist the book is this huge success and…so, there is this sense of like, this dude is totally cashing in on having, like, made friends with a homeless Juilliard musician. And what is the musician getting out of it? So they do directly address that, which I appreciate about the movie.

Alison: Was there follow up? Do you know where the musician is now?

Blake: There was follow up. So, Steve Lopez actually becomes friends with the person long term. And in fact, in a certain way, the movie’s as much about that as it is about the story of Nathaniel. Which is in its own way potentially problematic, right, like, here comes this Robert Downey Jr.-played actor coming to talk to this Jamie Foxx-played musician. And like, learning a lesson about what it means to form lasting relationships.

Alison: [laughter] Right.

Blake: And you’re like, okay, well what about Nathaniel. And they solve that by like, in the movie, having Nathaniel get an apartment and so like, you feel like he’s in some ways settled and that that happened in part because of what Steve Lopez does on his behalf. So, they do directly address these questions that I know you and I are super sensitive about.

Alison: Yeah. And just, I just wanted to bring back to one moment you described in that movie, where — it’s been sticking with me ever since you said it — where they wouldn’t let him play where he wanted to play. So it was like, there were literally strings attached —


Alison: Right, like — thanks for that real laugh! [laughter]

Blake: You’re very welcome. It was genuine.


Alison: So, like, he couldn’t play where he actually wanted to play, so it’s literally compromising his art. And that’s something I think you and I did a better job of, I will say, and I think we’ll talk about that in future episodes, of not pushing someone to talk about something they don’t wanna talk about. And just really letting the storyteller tell their story in the way they wanted.

Blake: Yeah, we said this before, we were not and would not ever call ourselves journalists on this project — like there’s 10,000 questions that a journalist would have asked any one of these people that we just did not feel like it was our place to ask.

Alison: Though maybe we wanted to know.

Blake: And still do.

Alison: Right, right.

Blake: For sure. Yeah, so I don’t know, how would you best summarize what you saw across the eight interviews we did when it comes to this question of art?

Alison: I think it’s a really good question to ask about all eight, because some of our storytellers didn’t mention art at all. And it does make me wonder if doing art would be helpful to them, you know, and, uh, I mean that would be a really long conversation wondering about that and really kind of looking into that. But it, I mean some of our storytellers notably said nothing about art, like Analyn and Eryka.

Blake: Sure.

Alison: They didn’t seem to have any kind of creative outlet.

Blake: And you wonder if they would, if it were presented to them, would it matter, would they be interested? I’m bringing this back around to your discussion of The Card Project at The Gathering Place. I’m imagining someone walking in, who doesn’t imagine themselves to be artistic, seeing this project and going, Huh, well, okay, I don’t really think this is for me but let me just sit down because I’m here and see what’s what. And then maybe that becomes important to them? I don’t know, what do you think about that?

Alison: Yeah, and I was gonna say, maybe even more so with you and the St. Francis Center, cuz your writing table is right there in the middle of things and people walking by kind of can’t miss it.

Blake: Right. Yeah. And we get tons of people walking out, curious and maybe bored. They’re in the shelter and they’ve got nowhere else to go for the time being and they’re just like what is this, who are you, what are you doing here?  And one way that we’ve lately thought to bridge that conversation is by having postcards so that if people wanna send a postcard to someone that we know. But now that we’re talking, I’m wondering, would it make sense to kind of like, frame the whole table and chair set-up as much as a kind of art space as anything else?

Alison: That’s a cool idea. And have adult coloring books.

Blake: Right, yeah.

Alison: It’s not a bad idea!

Blake: So, thanks Nicole.

Alison: [laughter] Yeah, really!

Blake: So, as we have established, we’re gonna kinda end now, with just a random kind of quote, chosen from one of the storytellers, and one that we think is thought-provoking and is maybe or maybe not tied to what we talked about or what we will. So here’s Donjuan, talking about life on the streets.


I’m doing what I came to do. I signed up for this. But I didn’t sign up for just to envision – I didn’t know it would be – there’s some Neanderthals in here, man, in this city. I mean for reals. Some serious cavemen. It’s been a little bit hectic here, for real, and it just started to tick me off, you know I mean you’ve got people walking past, just, I mean just disgusting. Okay, get your ass in society, if that’s what you’re waitin on, put it out.

[exit music starts]

Alison: For web design and sound support, thanks to Jonathan Howard.

Blake: Our theme music was composed by Geoff Stacks

Alison: For support for interview space and scheduling, thanks to Melanie Deem and The Gathering Place

Blake: And at St. Francis Center, thanks for Andrew Spinks for permissions and support. Also thanks to the DU—the University of Denver and its Executive Director, Doug Hesse.

Alison: And another special thanks to Juli Parrish , Director of the University of Denver Writing Center

Blake: Thanks also to Kateri McRae for sound support and equipment, and to Andrea Sanz for social media outreach and photography.

Alison: Thank you, Chris Bunch

Blake: And thank you, Sarah Hoffman. See you next week.


Oklahoma City: Fresh stART program

The Card Project at The Gathering Place

We Are All Homeless website, project, and film

Travels with Lizbeth by Lars Eighner

The Soloist directed by Joe Wright