Reflecting on Homelessness through Art: “What is Home, to You?” Project by Intern Abigail Alpern Fisch
By Aria Christenson | July 28, 2017 | Posted in: Luther Place Vision, Steinbruck Center Hostel Ministry,
By Steinbruck Center Intern Abigail Alpern Fisch
When groups come to visit the Steinbruck Center at Luther Place in Washington, DC, they often engage in workshops about the systematic causes of Homelessness and Poverty, learn about the similarities and differences between charity and justice, and investigate the reality of structural racism. Through service learning experiences and moments of reflection, the students and adults that stay in the Steinbruck Center hostel have an opportunity to expand their perspectives and return to their homes with a motivation to contribute to community change.
As an art student all my life and a high school leader/curriculum developer of an after-school service-learning art program, I have experienced first-hand how art can be a powerful tool for reflection during the process of both creating and viewing another person’s artwork. I hoped to contribute my experience as an artist and art teacher during my time here working as a summer intern with the Steinbruck Center, and I was very excited to be given the opportunity to do so. I designed and facilitated my own art lesson and reflection workshop called “What is Home to You?” which I introduced to five groups who stayed in the Steinbruck Center Hostel: church mission groups from Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. My art project first asks participants to reflect on what makes them know and feel at home? Does a certain feeling or emotion make one feel at home? Is it family? Or a favorite place in their house? I then asked everyone to illustrate or write on a cut-out paper house their response.
The first part of this project is each individual person’s reflection and artistic expression of their thought process. The next component is a group discussion where each person shares with the group what home means to him or her, and asks that they further elaborate on what he or she wrote and drew on the small cut-out square. I was always so impressed by the thoughtful engagement by the high school students and adult chaperones who participated in this project. Some answers included “Home is where we learn,” “Home is family, love, security, comfortable,” “Home is where I feel secure and where I can feel safe.”
With each of the five groups, we discussed the overlap in their answers. Family, pets, or a feeling of comfort and safety were responses often repeated within and between groups. What would it feel like for a person to be without what it was that they wrote or drew? We acknowledged how the things or feelings that made us each feel at home were probably not things or feelings that a person experiencing homelessness would not also wish to have or feel. I hoped that our discussion about the similar needs and desires of every individual for comfort, safety, love, and a familiar place in the world to return at the end of the day could influence how the members of the group would engage in their service learning activities throughout their week in D.C., and in any future interactions with people experiencing homelessness that they may have. I truly enjoyed contributing to the reflection process of groups staying at the Steinbruck Center this summer and seeing that art can have an important role in a service learning experience.