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The art of the possible

Paula Lonergan, Arts Manager, Crisis Skylight London

I took a freelance arts job at Crisis years ago and I’ve never looked back, because it’s inspiring to see so many Crisis members find their identity again through art.  

Many of the people that arrive here are traumatised, living on the margins and isolated from society. Doing something artistic, in a safe and social place, slowly helps them reconnect.  

What’s great about art is that it’s accessible for all – anyone can enjoy it. And by art, I actually mean everything from performance art, painting and hat making, to music, blogging and website design.  

I’d love you to see how people’s confidence grows while they’re here. Being homeless is such a heavy weight. Your sense of self can be completely lost, so it’s really powerful when someone’s narrative changes from “I’m homeless” to “I’m a photographer”.  

Some people try activities while they’re waiting between appointments with Crisis housing and employment coaches, while others get completely absorbed and commit to long projects, like performing as a choir or doing art gallery tours.  

The best bit for me is seeing the transformation in people. One young man had been sleeping rough in various places including under a bridge. He told me he couldn’t draw, but he liked Super Mario. Every day he came in and huddled in the corner. He sat alone with his coat and his bag under his chair, quietly working. He started to build trust and confidence and, after two weeks, finally took off his coat and began working with everyone and converting his drawings of Super Mario into prints using lino cutting techniques. He was invited to exhibit his work at an external Skylight exhibition. At the private view his work was the first piece sold, and he was ecstatic. He didn’t care how much it had sold for, he was just blown away that someone wanted to buy his art. 

Another member started making the most beautiful hats, which led to her going to college, working with a top UK milliner and then starting her own business. 

As you can imagine, art gives people highly transferable skills, like being digitally literate, and it’s a nice way back into formal education. Doing an art course is often a bridge to a course like maths, English or website design.  

For media enquiries:

E: media@crisis.org.uk
T: 020 7426 3880

For general enquiries:

E: enquiries@crisis.org.uk
T: 0300 636 1967