Action Project

Chazen’s ‘Shelter: Crafting a Safe Home’ creates awareness, opens dialogue around housing insecurity

All the pieces in the exhibit are made out of materials like housing insulation, pieces of wood and metal and represent the struggles of housing insecurity.

Image By: Photo Courtesy of The Chazen Museum of Art

Millions of people around the world lack access to shelter and refuge. Each year in Madison, over 3,500 people experience homelessness, according to Porchlight, a local organization that strives to reduce homelessness in Dane County by providing shelter, affordable housing and supportive services.

At the end of November, a new art exhibit displaying difficult truths of the subject will make its way to the Chazen Museum of Art. “Shelter: Crafting a Safe Home,” is organized by Contemporary Craft, a gallery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Ann Sinfield, exhibition manager for the Chazen Museum of Art, decided to reach out to Contemporary Craft about hosting this particular exhibition.

“[The Chazen] hasn’t really done anything like this,” Sinfield said. “We haven’t really engaged contemporary artists that work with a very specific topic.”

“Shelter” is a socially engaged art experience. It uses different methods to create awareness and open dialogue around the pressing topic of housing insecurity through descriptive visuals.

The exhibition incorporates different mediums to explain the issue. Sinfield explained the artists created tangible things, such as wearable jewelry and quilts, out of enigmatic and challenging concepts.

Demitra Thomloudis is one featured artist in the exhibit. Her art looks at how gentrification affects local communities and neighborhoods.

She uses construction debris from demolished homes to create wearable jewelry like brooches, earrings and necklaces. All the pieces are made out of materials like housing insulation, pieces of wood and metal. These remnants of demolished homes represent the struggles of housing insecurity.

Charity White, another artist featured in the exhibit, is a figurative ceramicist and community activist. She crafts figures laying on benches split at the waist — the art is then actually put in parks, designed to prevent homeless people from sleeping on the benches. Her work seeks to expose the politics of urban design and invites the community to reconsider its use of participation in public space, according to her website. The imagery uncannily parallels the homeless individuals and population who often sleep outside the Chazen.

“These artists are thinking about how to make artwork that ties bigger ideas into a personal experience,” Sinfield said. “It brings that data into a very direct relationship with an individual. It makes it physical; it makes it tangible.”

The exhibit also hopes to host a sock and glove drive to collect donations for the local populations experiencing homelessness. On Nov. 29, there will be an opening event with representatives from local organizations helping those without shelter.

“It presents these objects that are really interesting and really beautiful, but [that’s] not all they are,” Sinfield said. “There’s a lot of information that comes with them.”

The exhibit is coming to Madison on Nov. 24 and will be displayed until Jan. 6, 2019.

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