As temperatures drop, homelessness in the city becomes a pressing concern for New Yorkers. A recent panel discussion hosted by BFA Visual & Critical Studies in partnership with More Art, “No Fixed Address: Art as an Advocacy Tool for the Homeless,” addressed the ways art can be used as a transformative tool for those without homes. Moderated by William McAllister, senior research fellow and director of the Mellon Interdisciplinary Fellows Program, INCITE, at Columbia University, the event included an excerpt from a short documentary entitled Residents of New York (watch a trailer below), a public work by Andres Serrano developed as a case study for using art to raise awareness about homelessness. Serrano himself was in the audience, and chimed in during the discussion about the impact public art can have on social discourse.
Susan Craine, director of community and corporate programs at New York Cares, discussed her arts work with children of homeless families. John Leo and Maaji Newbold introduced their work as actors with Theatre of the Oppressed. Newbold, who has experienced homelessness herself, described finding a voice for her experience through acting. Heidi Schmidt, public affairs manager for the office of external affairs for New York City’s Department of Homeless Services, provided statistics and information about homelessness in the city, including the fact that New York is one of the only cities in the world to mandate a right to shelter (meaning no one can be turned away). All panelists advocated the arts as a means to raise awareness and deepen a public conversation about homelessness.