Developing a career as an artist is most of the times not easy at all. If additionally, you have to fight against racism and prejudice, it gets even tougher. This is what Theaster Gates story is about.

From the streets to the museums

Theaster Gates is an artist who is originally from Chicago whose personal fight was to sell his pottery in Art Galleries. But he was “just another black guy” and he had the settle with selling his work in roadside markets. All because of the colour of his skin.

But that was definitely something that wasn’t going to stop him. He knew his work was worth a lot more. And that is why he decided to “disguise” himself. He started saying that a Japanese artist who had taken refuge in the US had created the pottery. This character he created helped him sell his work without being judged for the colour of his skin.

And it worked. The art collectors who had before ignored his work started to be quite interested in them. Theaster decided then that it was time to reveal his identity. The collectors recognised his talent and creativity and continued buying his pottery. After that, he started exhibiting in the most important museums around the world and could finally develop a career as a professional artist.

From the museums to the streets

Nonetheless, Theaster’s lifestyle remained all the same. He decided to stay in his neighbourhood, one of Chicago’s most deprived areas, maybe even the US’ most deprived. Not only that, but he also decided to rebuild his community through his work.

He started buying, rehabilitating and refurbishing abandoned houses in Chicago’s outskirts and turning them into shelter houses for people at risk of exclusion.

Rebuilding neighborhoods and using art to transform people’s life is already a lot, but what Theaster is doing goes far beyond. Theaster’s story and activism reflects the issue of racism to perfection and shows that we should not exclude people just for their origin. They are also capable of doing amazing things.

You are in the middle of winter, walking down the street, but still warm despite the cold weather. Snow boots, woollen socks and a coat that might as well be worn by an eskimo might help quite a lot keeping you warm. And when at home, the lovely heating is there to welcome you. Sadly, not all of us are that lucky.

There are more than 100 million homeless people in the world (United Nations Annual Report, 2005) and as many as 1.6 billion lacks adequate housing (“Housing review” Habitat, 2015). People that live in the streets, under a blazing sun or a blinding blizzard.  People that live between cardboards and old blankets, when lucky, if that is something that can be defined as lucky…

Homelessfonts: calligraphy for the homeless

Homelessfonts is an initiative promoted by the Arrels Foundation, from Barcelona (Spain). Their aim is to create new fonts from the calligraphy of homeless people from Barcelona. But these are definitely not like the others.

The homeless received calligraphy workshops and practiced with typographic exercises, to create their own font. This is how their letters were digitalized and fonts created. These are fonts that have a soul and a story and that will carry with them the feelings and identity of their creators.

Any designer, business or individual can buy these fonts to use in their designs, posters, branding, etc. And with every purchase, you will help tackle homelessness.

More than letters

Homelessfonts is just one of the projects of the Arrels Foundation. Among their other projects, they have also launched a campaign for Christmas where they had homeless people create and send Christmas Cards to raise awareness about the problem of homelessness and how hard it is to spend Christmas on the streets. With the fund generated the Foundation was able to provide dinner and shelter for them during Christmas.

Fighting for the homeless

Projects like these are just another proof of the transformational power of arts and culture. Thanks to these, Arrels is able to aid 1,800 people every year.

Everything in this world seems to be about image. Sadly, not all of the districts within a city have the same image and personality. Having most of them a thrilling and vibrant cultural and social life, their impact and image does definitely not match that. It should not be like this. And this is what the performing arts innovation centre Harrobia Eskena is trying to prove.

Harrobia Eskena is much more than a performing arts innovation centre. Besides being a high performance centre of theatre production, they are also devoted to providing visibility and to boosting the cultural life of their district.

Harrobia Eskena: theatre and inclusion

Harrobia Eskena have set themselves to renew their district’s image doing what they do best: theatre. This is why they have engaged in several community projects in addition to their main activity.

Among them, the first school of Theatre for the Opressed of the Basque Country (Spain). A school that is open to all that aims to use arts as a vehicle to work through conflicts. They are able to build links and strengthen the relationships within their community generating more inclusive and vertebrated districts and cities.

“Building dreams”, another one of their projects, aims to include and integrate people in a different way. In this case, they use dance and theatre so that young people at risk of exclusion can play a different role in society, as well as learning to express themselves.

Much more than a theatre production

Definitely, Harrobia Eskena is a clear example of how arts and culture can contribute to social cohesion and to the transformation of districts and cities. Because theatre is about sharing, about expression. And this is what is essential when addressing different conflicts and issues within a community.