MAKING ART, RECLAIMING LIVES (1993) by Hope Sandrow and The Artist & Homeless Collaborative
This twenty-five-minute video follows artist and A&HC founder Hope Sandrow engaging with Park Avenue Armory Shelter resident artists and colleagues involved in the creative process. The collaborative artworks were installed on the shelter’s walls; in exhibitions, including an artwork by resident artist Geraldine Womack and Sandrow shown at Gracie Mansion Gallery, which represented Sandrow. The collective works of art, Sandrow’s Shelter News and Resumé projects provide a unique perspective of women seeking safety at New York City shelters.
Concurrent with the explosion of homelessness, the AIDS epidemic, and raging culture wars amidst the fight for equal and civil rights in the 1980s, conceptual artist Hope Sandrow questioned the relevancy of art to life.
She began volunteering at the Catherine Street Family Shelter in Chinatown. While conducting art workshops with children and producing a resident-written newsletter, she learned that homelessness resulted from a myriad of causes. In addition to endemic poverty, conditions included violence against women, low wages, illness, job loss, ageism, and racial and sexual discrimination.
The appalling reality at the shelter, where women were often sexually violated by staff to receive basic services, resonated with Sandrow’s own experience of sexual abuse. Her newsletter angered the Catherine Street Shelter administration, which barred Sandrow from returning. Soon after, in the early 1990s, Sandrow was invited to volunteer at the Park Avenue Armory Shelter for Women (renamed Lenox Hill Neighborhood House in 1996), which houses women over the age of forty-five. Attempting to close the gap between art-making and social action, Sandrow spoke with residents to learn their interests, inviting each woman to participate in collective art-making with her.
She subsequently founded, with the support of an NEA Special Projects Artist Grant and New York Foundation for the Arts fiscal sponsorship, the Artist & Homeless Collaborative (A&HC), in which she and her colleagues explored how art can transform people’s lives. While shelter residents were often deprived of their privacy and identity, engaging in the creative process with A&HC artists was a medium for self-representation that encouraged self-esteem in its participants viewing the resulting works of arts on the shelter’s walls. Her efforts included a groundbreaking arts education program and workshop that Sandrow created, with funding from the Warhol Foundation. She directed it in collaboration with Dina Helal at the Whitney Museum of American Art and Philip Yenawine at the Museum of Modern Art. Programing resulted in some residents successfully exiting the shelter system. By 1994, the A&HC had involved a hundred or so artist colleagues of Sandrow and 2,000 women and children shelter residents. A selection of A&HC artworks are on view at the New York Historical Society, Art for Change: The Artist and Homeless Collaborative exhibition (Dec. 3, 2021–Apr. 3, 2022).
Read about Hope Sandrow:
ARTIST AND HOMELESS COLLABORATIVE (A&HC)
Video by Ulf Skogsbergh (1993)