Why common art?

As the Artist-in-Residence for common art, I am often asked how art changes lives, especially for those who battle daily with the most basic needs of survival. Isn't art for those who have the time and means?

Why have so many individuals impacted by the lack of housing, job security, by mental illness, addiction, and other challenges chosen to create something in response to their difficult circumstances? Can it be that art is not just a frill? Can it be that art actually helps us to make sense of the realities of this world? Can it be that finding meaning through the creation of art helps mend the human soul?

Those who experience our program can see how, carried out in the company of others, it heals. It is because of this community that those seeking to build a sustainable living through the production of art can thrive. This is a community where everyone is welcome to create, connect, share hope, share a meal, provide mutual support, and be known and respected in a safe place.

A good example of how our community empowers one another is through our preparations for a large annual show called City HeArt.

City HeArt, which was held this year at the Prudential Center, is the largest art show for homeless and disabled artists in the Boston region. Over 70 artists - about 25 of whom were common artists - presented their work.

More than any other, this show requires extensive preparation. For weeks before City HeArt, our artists work feverishly, trying to create pieces that will mean as much to others as they do to them. Artists work cooperatively to discern the best presentation - and the appropriate asking prices - for their items. Finally, works are signed, matted or framed, and tagged for sale.

This year's show was successful in many ways - generating income for some; engendering cooperation and support for all; and perhaps most importantly, offering our new artists the encouragement - born of the cooperation of the community, the admiration of their work by strangers, and the sale of their work - to continue their regular participation as members of the common art community.

City HeArt is not the only opportunity to see us in action. Our artists sponsor an art sale each week at common art; organize two open houses per year at their program home (Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 15 Newbury Street, Boston); and attend art shows and fairs throughout greater Boston all year round.

How can you help? Donations of art supplies and other in-kind donations are always welcome, as are financial contributions (see below).

But more importantly, we seek your relationship!

Visitors and program volunteers are always welcome. We meet every Wednesday, 10am to 2pm, at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston. In addition, congregations are welcome to host a common art show. Our ministers and artists are eager to meet your group and to share with you their passion for art and community.


If you would like to help, to visit, or to sponsor an art show, please let me know.


Heidi H. J. Lee, Artist-In-Residence, common art