For many in Flagstaff and beyond, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of social services as newly unemployed residents found themselves having to rely on food banks to feed their families for perhaps the first time.
Open Doors: Art in Action went virtual recently, with its newest exhibit a powerful look at hunger and homelessness by renowned photographers Michael Collier and Amy Martin. The newly designed website, created by Vincent Caranchini, MFA of the School of Art at Northern Arizona University, and members of the Art in Action committee, went live Wednesday, Sept. 16, at www.opendoorsartinaction.org.
Through an Open Lens: Reframing Homelessness and Hunger is intended to challenge commonly held views of those who experience food and shelter insecurity. Viewers will be able to get close up to clients of the Family Food Center and the Flagstaff Shelter Services and gain a glimpse into their lives through bits of their personal stories. Each month, a new offering will be added to augment the exhibit in the form of videos and discussions.
“This exhibit highlights portraits of our neighbors in the Flagstaff community who experience homelessness and hunger (or insecurity about having enough to eat). The images offered in this show are meant to extend our gaze beyond the labels of ‘needy’ or ‘homeless,’” Cathy Small, Ph.D, professor Emeritus of Anthropology at NAU and co-author of the newly published, Man in the Dog Park: Coming Up Close to Homelessness wrote in the introduction on the website. “As you view the images in this exhibit, realize that you and your reactions are tied to the story of homelessness, part of the way that people without homes or enough to eat experience themselves through you. So consider both the images, and your own inner response to the images. What can I see in the photo beyond what I am usually primed to see about people ‘homeless’ or ‘hungry?’”
As a documentary photographer, Martin has worked with Flagstaff Shelter Services since 2016 to help nurture understanding of those who rely on the resource.
“Many times these individuals feel invisible, unheard and disconnected from the community,” she wrote in an artist’s statement. “[These portraits] are made in the belief that all human beings deserve the right to honesty, justice, dignity and creativity.”
Collier turned his focus to the Flagstaff Family Food Center early this year, meeting people at the kitchen to learn about their lives, hopes and dreams. Included on the website are links to the food center and Flagstaff Shelter Services where viewers can learn more about the work of these agencies and how to support them.
Eventually, the past exhibits of Open Doors: Art in Action will be represented in the Archives section of the website. A finalist for the 2020 Viola Award in the category of Community Impact, Art in Action has offered 13 shows on topics of social, environmental and justice concern since the spring of 2018. These have included immigration, incarceration and women’s issues as well as crucial environmental topics. Each exhibit has been accompanied by monthly programs featuring discussions by local educators and nonprofit agencies concerned with the topic, as well as music and refreshments.
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