David Schumaker woke up every morning on the cold streets of Austin, but one day this would all change.
Schumaker was walking past the Trinity Center downtown, and a woman volunteer at a local art studio stopped him and asked him to tell his story. Schumaker explained how he had been living on the city streets for more than 5 years due to the loss of his parents, alcoholism and drugs.
The volunteer immediately invited him into the art studio and told him to take that grief and anger and paint a picture.
“At the time I had a broken heart and a lost soul, but the program was therapeutic for me,” David Schumaker said.
For over 25 years, Art From the Streets has given the homeless community a chance to start over by providing them with a studio at the Trinity Center, art supplies, and volunteers to help sell art in hope to create a new beginning.
The non-profit organization is run on donations and holds pop-up art shows around downtown Austin. The art shows provide an opportunity for income for the contributors, 80 percent of the earnings of the art go to the artist. Their slogan, “Give Art a Home”, fully embodies the message that AFTS provides an encouraging space for artistic expression for those who need it most
The artists are able to attend 3 free studio sessions each week while creating one-of-a-kind pieces all year long to prepare for the annual “Art From the Streets Exhibition Show”.
Last year’s 24th Annual Show and Sale at the Austin Convention Center brought over 1,200 people who purchased over $90,000 of art in the 10 hours they were open.
The show changed one artist’s’ life entirely. “I own a duplex on South Lamar now. I made enough money at the show last year to pay 2 years of rent,” Jerry Hurta said, “I have a lot of returning customers and people that have gotten to know me, I have a fan club at the art show each year now.”
The program does not only bring money and stability to the artists. It provides them with creativity and determination to belong to something in this world.
“At the time I had a broken heart and a lost soul, but the program was therapeutic for me.”
Cathy Carr lost everything she knew in a house fire and immediately was forced to live off of the streets. After hearing about Art From the Streets from a couple friends, she immediately fell in love with the program.
Carr’s painting subjects are usually animals because she feels they are independent and courageous. She hopes to open either an art or a music studio of her own one day to inspire others.
The artists create personal relationships with each other and the volunteers during the studio sessions and the annual exhibition show. Individuals that were once invisible are now seen as a local celebrity. Art From the Streets motivates their artists to be rewarded for their hard work and dedication all year.
The volunteers at the studio range in age from 20 to 70. Most of the volunteers have a passion for art and become truly inspired by the products the homeless or at-risk artists create.
The volunteers often have jobs in the St. David’s episcopal church which allow them to be on site and available for all of the art sessions. They like the consistent schedule and central location because it allows them to build strong bonds with the artists and serve as not only a volunteer, but as a friend.
Schumaker explains that a change in perspective can sometimes be all a person requires to get out there and help somebody in need.
At this year’s art exhibition David Schumaker is expected to have over 200 paintings on display. Schumaker now pays for his own apartment from his earnings for his art and never looks back at the life he once lived.
The Trinity Center is located downtown at 304 East 7th Street. Open studio times are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm.