|Photo courtesy Occupy Homes|
|Photo from the first Occupy Homes art event last spring|
Since losing his home last month, 53-year-old Dennis Wounded Shield has slept under a bridge. The Lakota artist has struggled with homelessness for a number of years, and hopes that him participating in an art show will open people's eyes to homelessness. Opening at Gallery 3325
, the second art show hosted by Occupy Homes, will take place in a vacant house in south Minneapolis. It will feature several artists, many of whom are homeless themselves. See also:
Occupy Homes MN activists release children's book about the foreclosure crisis
|By Dennis Wounded Shield|
Wounded Shield has been making art ever since he was 11 years old, when his foster mother encouraged him to continue with his talent. "I knew I was gifted in art," he says. "She told me to keep doing it."
Since then, he's traveled all over the United States, visiting different nations and folks he's interested in, from Navajo people in Oklahoma to Native groups in Los Angeles.
His paintings and drawings draw inspiration from Native spirituality, he says. There are Native people in traditional dress, teepees, and a focus on nature and animals present in his work. He also frequently employs symbolism, including angel imagery, with a dramatic use of light and dark.
The Opening at Gallery 3325 isn't the first time Wounded Shield has shown his work publicly. He was recently a part of the Saint Paul Art Crawl, for example, where he got a lot of positive feedback. "There were some pretty cool people," he says.
|Dennis Wounded Shield|
Right now, things aren't going so great for Wounded Shield. It's getting pretty cold under the bridge, he's lost his phone, and isn't able to keep up with his sobriety because of the stress of his situation as well the back pain he has. Still, he's glad to be part of a show that brings awareness to the homelessness issue, so that "we get people to notice that we are out here and we are struggling and trying to make things happen," he says.
Antoine Martinneau, an organizer for Occupy Homes who has taken on a leadership role for the "Art of Housing Justice" show, says he hopes it showcases the work Occupy Homes has been doing.
The house, located at 3325 Second Avenue South, was a vacant home owned by Wells Fargo that Occupy Homes reclaimed for a family experiencing homelessness last January. Currently, the home is housing several people who would otherwise be homeless, and also is being used as a community space.
|By Dennis Wounded Shield|
While the Occupy Homes movement initially provided support for families who were being foreclosed upon by demanding that banks negotiate, Martinneau says the organization has recently developed the idea of reclaiming vacant properties that have been sitting for at least six months. Occupy Homes hopes to pressure banks to donate these homes to a community organization that can rent it out as affordable housing. Currently, individuals and families pay no money to Occupy Homes, but do pay utilities themselves.
Martinneau himself has experienced a fair degree of housing instability. He used to work for a major pharmaceutical company, where he was making some pretty good money, but he felt that he was taking advantage of the poor and sick. "It was something I couldn't live with anymore," he says. So as an alternative, he took a job doing canvassing work over the marriage amendment, which paid quite a bit less, but was much more empowering.
|Robots by Chris Parks (Plantmonster)|
"It was the first time that I really felt that social activism was moving toward social reform," he says. "Having that victory was a huge deal for me. If we work hard and strategically, amazing things happen."
Through his work as a canvasser, Martinneau got connected to Occupy Homes, and ended up staying in the house where the gallery opening will take place before moving to another occupied home where he was evicted and forced out by the police and arrested.
Martinneau says that having an art exhibit brings a much more human element to the hard work of Occupy Homes. "It's much more to the heart of what we're doing than facts and figures," he says. "Art is something that really gets to people in a different sort of way."
|Monster Girl by Chris Parks (Plantmonster)|
About half a dozen artists will be featured in the show, including Wounded Shield; Jordan Booker, a resident in the house who makes jewelry and works with wood; and Chris Parks, a freelance illustrator who also goes by Plantmonster, and has been seen in galleries around town including Rogue Buddha. Youth from Kulture Klub Collaborative, an arts organization that provides arts experiences and learning for homeless youth, have created a zine that will be on display, and there will be pieces by artists from Rare Productions, a media arts organization that works with LGBT youth and youth of color. In addition, the evening will include spoken word and storytelling, with Marinneau acting as MC.
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