Justlife Creative Open House – supporting artists who’ve experienced homelessness.

Could you tell us a bit about Justlife Creative?
Justlife is a charity providing support to people who are close to the streets across Brighton and Hove. Our team helps them to progress towards safe, healthy and stable lifestyles, through developing positive relationships, re-building trust in services and ultimately believing in them as individuals.

Last year we opened a creative hub in the Open Market to provide a safe space for artists who have experienced homelessness to come and express their journeys and TRUE selves through creativity.

Over 80 people have accessed the studio over that time, 20 who regularly attend and 10 who are currently featured in our AOH exhibition. We are open 6 days a week and have run over 100 workshops using different mediums, techniques and concepts, including watercolour, pastels, printing, collage, clay and photography.

The artists are given collective ownership of the space. They can help themselves to hot drinks and materials, but most of all, their voices are heard, their ideas are valued and that shapes the project that we deliver.

How did you select the artists who are taking part in this exhibition?
I promoted the opportunity to our group of artists with the offer of support.
A few of them chose to take part after enjoying the experience last year.
A few selected themselves for the chance of a new challenge and to have their art recognised.
I also personally selected a few in hopes of raising their aspirations and encouraging their identity as professional artists.

How is making art important for Justlife Creative artists?
Art is often seen for it’s more soft and metaphorical outcomes, rather than the psychological impact it can have on transforming the lives of those who access services like ours.

Almost every person who enters that space has experienced trauma of some form and art can serve as a bridge. It opens up space for symbolic representation to help us cope. It helps decipher distorted messages from the mind and leads us back to the heart. Sometimes these emotions can only be accessed through generating and interacting with fantasies.

Art is a chance to explore, to heal and to play.

By having activities to focus on and a safe, nurturing environment, it opens up sensitive conversations and allows the group to act as a support for one and another. One of our artists recently called it his ‘temple of solace’.

The artists find connection through their shared experiences on the street, but they find unity through the art they create.

What do the artists most hope to gain from taking part in AOH?
Art can help express stories that are sometimes beyond words and it’s clear to see just how valuable these expressions can be to the lives of people who struggle to be seen in our society. Art makes them visible and their stories visible.

We have people attend our sessions from all skill levels and backgrounds. Most of them have never had the opportunity to share their story before or be seen as valued artists in their community. The impact this can have on their self worth and sense of belonging is immeasurable.

Art also has the power to provoke and captivate, which is so important when challenging perspectives of social issues such as homelessness. Our collective is proud to raise awareness and demystify those stereotypes.

Is there any feedback the artists would like to give us?

It’s constructive to work towards a purpose and a goal.

It’s nice to see work framed and on the wall.

We feel proud to be sponsored by Art Republic.

It’s positive to be included in a community event.

I made prints of artwork to sell on stall, which made small sales more realistic and my art more accessible.

Although footfall has been quite low, the visitors that have come to interact with our artists have given them more confidence and feel more valued.

We’ve decided to launch a Crowdfunder campaign, to help raise funds for the studio whilst we have so much work on display and a real buzz around what we do. We’d really appreciate any support for our organisation.