The Art of the Street

The portraits adorning a wall at the Stewpot, the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas’ soup kitchen and resource center, offer a sobering dose of reality. The 51 homeless people were sketched by church member Dave Brown, who began the weekly sittings in an effort to hone his skills as a medical illustrator and boost the self-esteem of Stewpot regulars.

“At least my drawings give a sense of belonging ta many of them who call the Stewpot home,” muses Brown, who spent about four hours weekly on each of the black and white, 18-by-24 inch portraits. “And it reminds me that these are very proud people who just happen to be down on their luck.”

Their individual stories are as varied as the different features that stare from me Stewpot wall. There’s Goodspeed, Tenhauno Ten Bears, Preacher, Owl, Pop and Rose Mary, who since 1985 has made the streets and alleys her home-a life she chooses despite having five children in the Dallas area.

Brown, 41, has seen the pain in their eyes, traced their histories from the lines and furrows in their faces. He knows most of their stories, but staunchly guards their privacy. It’s his way of thanking them- along with a 5-by-7 copy of his work-for their trust. Their privacy is all they have left, he says

“I can tell you their stories could be fate for any one of us,” warns Brown, who recently began sketching members of Dallas gangs. “I get angry sometimes at the prejudices and biases that many people have about the homeless.”

-Cecil Sharp

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