ON ANY GIVEN NIGHT, roughly 4,000 women and men are homeless across Portland, and as many as 400 of them are homeless youth living on the streets.
Here to help is Survival Guide to the Streets of Portland, a powerful show at the Central Library's Collins Gallery. It's a product of the youth of p:ear. Short for "project: education, art, recreation," p:ear is a nonprofit that works with homeless youth aged 15-24 via creative mentorship.
The Collins Gallery show includes screenprints and large paper skull masks with infographics taken from a Multnomah County study on the city's homeless done last year. The prints give off-the-cuff insights like, "Go to college, it's a great place to dig through the trash," and "Carry keys to avoid incarceration." They were created in conjunction with the Independent Publishing Resource Center, during a series of workshops. (P:ear has partnered with a long list of local businesses and artists in the past, including New Seasons, Por Qué No, and artists like Jesse Reno, Blaine Fontana, and Y La Bamba.)
Survival Guide to the Streets of Portland ends Sunday, August 9. The project all started with authentic conversations. "We sat down with a group of youth that come into p:ear, and we asked them, 'What is the advice you could give us on your experiences that you've learned from being homeless?'" says p:ear Art Programs Director William Kendall. Snippets of their advice became the text in the prints.
"We sat with them for like an hour or half-hour. Most of the kids who come through the door of p:ear come from some sort of history of trauma and abuse. If you can do nothing with these kids but sit and listen, that has always been the most valuable thing you can do: sit, look someone in their eyes, and listen to them. It builds their self-esteem; it makes them be heard," says Kendall.
In addition to the library show, the screenprints will be on display (and available for purchase) during a closing reception at p:ear for First Thursday this week. You can also currently see art from p:ear at the World Forestry Center, as part of a mural project unveiled earlier this summer.