Saving the World Through Beauty
Beauty will save the world.” The famous quote of the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky was a favorite of Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, a network of communities that provide hospitality to poor persons and advocate for justice. Day, whose life and work were enormously influential to the founders of Project HOME, understood that art and beauty were not luxury commodities reserved only for those of economic means, but were vital for the human spirit. Certainly persons trapped in poverty need such basics as housing and food and income, but like all of us, they also need art, creative expression, and aesthetic wonder.
Obviously, in seeking to develop programs and services to empower people to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, we worked on shelter and housing, medical care and recovery services, education and employment. But as we learned from persons who have experienced the deep psychic wounds and profound social alienation that come with homelessness and poverty, we came to understand that true healing requires other elements as well. Beauty, creativity, and expressiveness are equally essential in restoring human dignity and wholeness.
From our earliest years, Project HOME has featured programs for artistic creativity. We believe the arts are a vital part of celebrating the human spirit and healing our world. Our studios and galleries have tapped some astonishing talent. Long dormant creativity has sprung to life. We have seen residents open up and reveal remarkable new sides of themselves. We don’t think of it as “art therapy,” but outlets for creativity and beauty in their many manifestations. These opportunities can be an integral component in a person’s journey of recovery and healing. The arts can also play an important role in breaking down negative stereotypes and demonstrating that even persons who are socially marginalized have remarkable gifts.
Rachel Ehrgood, who directs our arts programs, reflects on the value of the arts at Project HOME: “We are very fortunate, on all sides of the art making process, as creators and viewers, to experience the powers art has to strengthen and provide enlightenment to the human experience.”
“The arts program at Project HOME helps me be an empowered woman,”says Julia Galetti, a resident of our 1515 Fairmount Avenue residence and one of our featured artists. “It helps me sell my art and realize my potential. I like the fact that I can express my creativity.”
As the arts flourish, so does the human spirit. And so do communities. Even though these are small efforts, we are convinced that bit by bit, our small corner of the world is being saved by beauty.