by Noah Wali
Hopeful Homeless 3 and the Topic of Public Art: Los Angeles
Welcome to the third article of “Hopeful Homeless”, a project in the making. This is a project created by myself, Noah Wali, in order to raise awareness and share stories that many people may never hear about our own Portland homeless community as well as the nation when possible. I plan to interview as many homeless people in Portland (and in other cities) as possible, sit down with them and have real meaningful conversations with them about their living conditions, their past, and whatever else is on their minds. I will eventually turn this project into a book including interviews and photos, filled with happy, sorrowful, and often times frightening stories. I aim to have the project completed by the end of this year. The completed printed photo books will be sold at various locations, and the money will be donated to all sorts of homeless-like foundations across the greater Portland area. More information is yet to come in later weeks. These articles are just a short glimpse of interviews to be put in the book.
It was a Tuesday afternoon on the bustling street of Hollywood Ave., however, there was one lady in specific who quickly caught my eye. A bright colored lady painting a beautiful picture of the busy road with a compelling sunset shadowing the famous Hollywood Ave.
I approached her and offered her a few dollars for her exquisite work. I continued walking when it struck me: The hard working painter had ragged clothes and her paint supplies were basic, but her skills were that of a professional. I turned around and introduced myself. Her name was Tasha and she was 30 years old. She grew up just outside Los Angeles and dropped out of High School Junior year. Her family (2 other siblings and her mother) were surviving off their mother’s two jobs. For her 17th birthday, her mom got her a ticket to an “introduction to painting class”.
She went to the class and enjoyed herself so much that she saved up money from working her own job to buy supplies, and she painted daily.
Eventually her mother passed away, and she lost touch with her two siblings after they moved away. She had apparently lost the family’s house as well. She took a bus to Hollywood avenue to mourn her mother’s death, and she has been living homeless near the area since age 19. She never stopped painting––she had the same supplies, and she would paint on cardboard boxes, etc. She hides her pieces where she sleeps, but she told me since about a year ago she was too scared to publicly show her art. Her work focuses on bright colors and unique shapes.
I asked her about her opinions on public art as a whole, and she responded that freedom of art has been very important to her over her years, making many political pieces about the conditions of homeless in America. She keeps up with the current news as much as possible, and she is not a fan of the current president. Her first pieces drawn in public were images of Trump with intriguing imagery surrounding his portrait.
Tasha believes that public art is meant to be offensive, but not necessarily in a bad way. “People be putting up different types of art that go against Trump, and I say go for it. Public art should make people angry, happy, sad, confused. Public art has to stir up controversy, you know? Art that is put on display for anyone to see supposed to make you feel a certain way, and it should strike up a debate. Public art can be powerful for people like me don’t have a lotta say in much.”
As for Tasha, she plans to continue making art and staying active in the public art scene, making sure her opinions are heard.
I gave Tasha extra money to support her getting her work out there, and she wrote down her full name for me so that one day, hopefully, I would see her work out there online or in a museum.