Meet Garry Sharp and his homeless art project with Cafe Art

My original thought was how can you do something that can make an impact that was disproportionate to the amount of money because I’m not rich. So I thought what could you do with a small amount of money. I’ve been interested in homelessness because when I first came to London when I was 19 I lived in hostels and a little bit on the streets. l busked and I had to make sense of that and then this thing of what is homelessness. Being homeless only means that you don’t have anywhere safe and warm to stay it doesn’t say anything about you. It doesn’t just mean you’re an addict or unstable its purely what it means ‘Homeless’.

So the thing about art its just a means of demonstrating that. There are plenty of people who are not homeless who suffer from all of those things there’s no correlation. The thing about the art is you can use it as a tool to demonstrate that being homeless means no more than the fact you haven’t got anywhere to stay. So that and the thought that you could have a disproportionate impact versus the amount of money you’re spending. So I had an idea for a prize for the best piece of art by a homeless person. What I didn’t have was the infrastructure or knowledge of how to do it so I played around with it for a couple of months and got stuck. I then talked with a friend of mine who is chairman of Groundswell which is a peer to peer homeless charity and he mentioned Cafe Art. Cafe Art primarily put up art that is made by homeless people into their cafes. They also run a homeless photography competition where Fuji gives them a hundred free cameras. they distribute them amongst the homeless and encourage them to enter the competition. They then make a calendar from the thirteen winning pictures.

Cafe Art have already started a homeless art competition so I caught up with them and we agreed that basically they were limited for budget. We agreed that I put my money in alongside theirs. The good thing was that brought with it all the infrastructure. They already had the contacts, they knew how to get art from homeless people in the hostels and the various places that support homeless people. So we teamed up together and that basically led to what we have now which is The Cafe Art competition 2019.

Entries ended at the end of January. We got 144 entries and they are being judged at the moment. Out of that will come the ‘best’ of twenty or so which will go in an exhibition at The Hampstead School of Art, which runs from the 5th of March for three weeks. During this time the panel will chose the best three pieces of art. All twenty finalists will be given fifty pounds, the winner will get three hundred and fifty pounds, first runner up two hundred and fifty pounds and the second runner up one hundred and fifty pounds. These three will also get a mentoring package which will give practical support by a lady called Geraldine Crimmins. Geraldine herself was once homeless and is a successful artist. They will be offered materials and practical support to facilitate their work.

The real thing about this whole project is its a route out, its a route to commercialise their art and to get practical support from many angles. It’s about offering mentoring to lots of budding homeless artists and bringing themselves and their work into a positive fruition.

For more information http://www.cafeart.org.uk/art-competition

Thank you Garry Sharp – interview Celine Hipiche

Photos Garry Salter

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