The Lamp Art Project: Giving Voice to the Homeless
Karen Ivette Zaldana bio
I was born and raised in El Salvador during the Civil War. Homelessness is such a heavy word in itself: the cold concrete, cold weather, thirst, hunger, fear. I decided to reach out to Lamp for help and guidance because I was able to find trust and understanding. Art is saving my life. Thank you to everyone at the Lamp Village, including Hayk, Beth, Emma and Jennifer and also to everyone out there that supports the Lamp Community Arts Program. I will continue with my mental health recovery and I still have the keys to my permanent supportive housing unit!
There are numerous photographers and organizations that use our medium to inspire, heal, help, and give back and it’s important to celebrate those institutions and individuals. LAMP Art Project is a pioneering art collective in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, was founded in 1999 as a program to offer members and the community as a whole a safe and encouraging environment to express themselves creatively, find empowerment, and supplement their income through artistic development. Guided by professional artist Hayk Makhmuryan and guest instructors, participants receive training and technical support in drawing, painting, ceramics and other media.
From July 3 – July 28 the LAMP Arts Program will have a Visual Installation on view inside the Mobile Homestead, a traveling structure created by Mike Kelley. On Sunday July 20, they will offer an Art Workshop (1 – 3:30pm) and Musical Performances (1pm & 4pm)
Beth Stirnaman, a Southern California based photographer worked with Hayk for six weeks to give an opportunity for these individuals to share their normally unseen perspectives of the city through the lens of a camera. Beth Stirnaman and Samy’s Camera both donated time and equipment to give formerly homeless and men and women on Skid Row a voice. Buzzfeed created a documentary about the photography program…
More than simply providing an opportunity to develop skills and technique, the Art Project plays a central role in the recovery and stability of numerous clients. Mental health professionals widely recognize that artistic expression can enhance the well-being and livelihood of men and women living with mental illness while also serving as a bridge to other clinical and supportive services. In past years, more than 70% of Art Project participants have shown increased use of mental health services, which in turn leads to increased wellness and self-sufficiency.
Lamp has long been a trailblazer in permanent supportive housing and harm reduction. Central to this notion is the agency’s commitment to continuously develop programming that is both innovative and effective in meeting the unique needs of homeless individuals living with mental illness and other co-occurring disorders. For more than a decade, the Art Project has served as a shining example of Lamp’s innovative, service-enriched model.
All pieces are available for sale at Lamp_ArtProject.imagekind.com. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sales will benefit individual artists and the other 50% will go to Lamp to support the Fine Arts Program.
Rachel Cowles bio
Let me tell you a story: Once there was a little girl as sweet as an angel. She was like a china doll on a store shelf, blonde hair and olive green eyes. She believed in love. As she grew up to six years old, she learned to hate and fight because her step dad raped her for the first time. She dreams of peace, a peaceful world like the rose and peace tattoo on her left arm. But I know Mary because she is just a small town girl living in a lonely world. She took a Greyhound going anywhere. Oh, yeah, Mary is me: Mary Rachel Cowles and I am going from California dreaming to doing my dreams. Thanks to Lamp Mary has a place. Watch me fly!
Jeff Cross bio
I grew up in the Bay Area with my mom and 3 siblings. I had my first bout of depression when I was 19. My family did not understand what was happening to me, and I had to leave. Soon I was homeless. Lamp helped me to stay sane in Skid Row with a safe place to stay, art groups, poetry classes and a team that is helping me find a permanent place to live. I was happy to be given the opportunity to take photos; in my whole life I never really had the means to work with anything but pencil and paper. I want to work with media I haven’t worked with before and maybe have my art featured in a gallery one day again.
Anthony Bogan a.k.a Blazing Shadows bio
I am 24 years old. I ended up homeless due to violence with me and my mom in 2010-2012. My experience on Skid Row has been a tough one. I wish the houses here were cheaper to buy in LA. I got into the Lamp Art Studio in 2013 through a friend who introduced me. I am an artist here and I love it so much. I have done several abstract paintings that I love. I am enrolled at Westwood College for business administration. I want to own my own business in Photography and Modeling with an art gallery, etc.
I’ve been down in the Skid Row area for a year and 4 months. I had nowhere else to go. I promised God that I wouldn’t stay in the same environment that I was in. Every Tuesday I would go to the Lamp music studio and play drums, keyboard and guitar. It’s my way of venting. Thanks to Hayk and Lamp for letting me explore my creativity. I definitely found my happiness at Lamp.
Joshua Withers bio
I grew up in East Los Angeles, California, US of A! Life in the ghetto teaches you nothing but the truth. My biological father is a monster. He kicked me out after beating me like he beat my mother. I then sought out my mother’s guidance, but never found it. I have been wandering the pavement ever since. I don’t blame them for my homelessness only that they did nothing to help me when I needed it. Before this class I was more of an amateur photographer. My goals in life are simple. Live a healthy and happy life and help others to do the same.
Myka Moon bio
Born to a drug addict mother, Myka Moon grew up in foster care and by the time he was a young adult, he was homeless, calling the streets of LA’s Skid Row home. He learned about Lamp’s programs through a friend and soon after that, Lamp staff helped him get a place at Lamp’s Village. Myka says that the “photo class was a grand bright spot in his life as he loves photography and printing black and white photos in dark rooms.” Myka’s goal in life is to become the artist he really is and find the best spotlight he fits in best. Art is my everything. With it comes the greatest happiness in life and freedom!”
Angela Wash bio
I am a mother and a people person. I love life. I was married for 25 years and lost my husband then everything came tumbling down. Lamp has been a family to me. I love these people here. I was very fortunate to be in this photo class because I wanted to be a photographer since high school. I am blessed. I’m in the Lamp Village now and hoping to get into permanent supportive housing. I want my own a boutique someday.
Chelsea Harlan a.k.a. Salem Rose bio
I am 27 years old, from Waynesboro, MS. Right now I’m living on the streets, in shelters and in care. My goal is to own my art gallery. Music and art make the world go round.
Gloria McKinney bio
My journey to Skid Row began with a job loss. I worked for 15 years, the building was sold and the new owner came with a new employee. Without a paycheck I couldn’t pay rent so I gave up my apartment. My family wanted me to stay with them but I did not want to be a problem for anyone. A friend told me about the Union Rescue Mission. I phoned them; they had a bed, so that’s where I went. A flyer about LAMP was posted at the building (Renato) where I live now. I became a member. The photography class is excellent. I have learned so much. I plan to have a jewelry business on the Internet. What I’m learning at Lamp will help me in my business.
Mariana Valles bio
At the age of 12 I made the decision to choose art as my life’s mission. So photography, being an art form, is my ally. I am what is labeled in the art world as an outsider artist. I am an abstract expressionist but first and foremost, I am a Skid Row Artist! Whenever I receive exposure so does Skid Row of which I am and my art is a product of.
Ms. Neal bio
I was accepted in a program to work at the welfare office and moved to L.A. I’ve slept on the sidewalk for a night. Now I live at the Union Rescue Mission and plan on bringing my two kids from Houston to live with me. I’ve been to school for fashion, film, TV, and production and have worked in the industry. I have no complaints. I have a nice life. I have a ministry. I pass out lunches on the street and I will come back even when I move on. I have a job to do.
K. L. Jackson bio
I am 48 years old and was raised in Los Angeles, California. I served in the Military U.S. Army Corp of Engineers from 1983 to 1989. I have worked various jobs, but my proudest position was as a Docent at the California African American Museum for five years. By October of 2010 I had lost my latest job. Me and my wife struggled to keep up but by mid 2011 we became homeless. The photo class has helped me extend my creative freedom. I might live in Skid Row but I am not helpless. My ambitions are unlimited as I strive to live a better life. (Keith and his wife were living in separate transitional facilities, but now have a permanent supportive housing unit together. Keith is now happily employed.)
Ramiro Puentes bio – I was born in Zacatecas, Mexico in 1947. I was an alcoholic, drug addict, and smoker. I quit everything in 1995. In 2009 I became homeless. My first encounter with Lamp happened through a free yoga class in 2012. I became a member of the Fine Arts Program and I now am also volunteering there. I have a social worker that helps me a lot. My mentor is Hayk M. He has been a great teacher and a friend. I always wondered about photography. It seemed like an impossible dream for me. Because of my low self-esteem I thought that it was not for me, but now I love it! My goal in life is to become a happier person and appreciate all the wonders in the world.
Posts on Lenscratch may not be reproduced without the permission of the Lenscratch staff and the photographer.
The Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD), 2023May 26th, 2023
On Finances and Accessibility: Drew Leventhal and Alayna Pernell in ConversationMay 23rd, 2023
Toni Pepe in Conversation with Douglas BreaultMay 15th, 2023
The Hand in Nature, Dennis DeHart: Aerial and FossilsApril 11th, 2023
Tara Fallaux: Love and the Perfect PearlFebruary 13th, 2023