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Art and Community at Broad Street Ministry

March 9, 2018

When policymakers and nonprofit leaders discuss homelessness they typically focus on addressing people’s basic needs, such as having a place to sleep and being fed. Although these are important concerns, a person’s social and emotional wellbeing must also be taken into consideration. At Broad Street Ministry, this idea of assisting a whole person with the multiple facets of their life is a top priority.

Participation in artistic projects benefits a person struggling with homelessness in a variety of ways. From a psychosocial perspective, clients have been shown to demonstrate increased coping skills as well as an overall improvement in life achievement. The creation and completion of a project increases a person’s sense of self-efficacy and self-worth. Financially, creating art can provide income opportunities for clients through the sale of their work at art shows.

Art therapy and the creation of art have been integrated into the programming of many social service organizations in other cities. In Trenton, NJ, HomeFront’s ArtSpace program uses art therapy to teach life skills to clients. The art therapist who runs the program states that she insists the clients finish every piece they start in order to give them a sense of accomplishment. “You have to get into the core of what’s going on and work to heal their soul or whatever’s going on to get them on that road to self-sufficiency,” she explained, when asked how art can help people change their lives.

Broad Street Ministry calls its approach to its clients - who are all called guests - ‘Radical Hospitality’. As the BSM website explains, “[t]he practice of radical hospitality means that we invite the whole person into our space, wounds and all.” Art is a way for guests to explore those wounds or to create something beautiful in the face of difficult circumstances. At the art table, which is held twice a week at BSM, volunteers and clients of all ages sit together and create art. Some guests prefer to have their own space and enjoy their art in silence, but for most people at the table it’s a social event. People share their stories, discuss their problems, and collaborate on their artistic creations. Once the projects are completed, guests have the option to either keep their work or leave it at BSM, where it will be displayed and used to beautify the space.

As part of the vibrant community that is Broad Street Ministry, which supports guests and shares in their journey in both art and life, the BSM artistic management team is working to expand the art services offered. The organization held an art show last spring, and is planning to host similar events in the future. They also are incorporating artistic programming on First Fridays into their monthly calendar. By expanding the artistic programming, BSM is increasing the holistic nature of its community and offering a more meaningful experience for its guests.

Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu