Art is a creative outlet that can be a decorative influence that brightens our lives. It also has the power to inspire and educate.
Carlisle-based artist Carrie Breschi draws upon all of these traits as she promotes social engagement through art at her current exhibition at the Carlisle Arts Learning Center.
In the installation, “Home Sweet Home—The Real Face of Homelessness,” she aims to break down perceptions of the purpose of an art gallery by transforming the space into a deeply meaningful educational experience. Through both 2D and 3D art installations, Breschi explores the realities of homelessness and addresses community misconceptions that surround those who struggle to find and maintain shelter.
In each of the seven installations, Breschi includes re-purposed materials, most of which hold deep significance to the housing insecure population. These items were selected with the intention to give the viewer a direct connection to the subject matter. Additionally, she purposely includes research and facts to inform the audience of the realities that face a staggering number individuals and families who find themselves without a place to call home.
Breschi does not rely on emotion alone but uses her platform to educate in order to facilitate understanding an empathy.
The project began when Breschi learned that Community CARES, an emergency homeless shelter and resource center, would be disposing of the 7-year-old mats that they had been using for their residents to sleep upon. Envisioning an art installation that displayed stories on the mats about the hardships that people had experienced, Breschi set about the “Home Sweet Home” project, which evolved into a bigger picture that instead addressed the basic misconceptions of homelessness.
It is those misconceptions that stigmatize and stereotype those without a home that Breschi addresses head-on with information wrapped within a well-executed, minimalist approach.
In “Sweet Dreams,” the worn and mended mats take a central location within the gallery, stenciled with calming sentiments of slumber, wishing “good night” and “sweet dreams.” It is, however, the unexpected realization that the occupants of emergency shelter call these thin, cushions their bed that directly impacts the viewer.
Moreover, the uppermost mat’s phrases are mixed and jumbled, alluding to the struggles and worries that must plague those who are housing insecure. By employing the actual material, the viewer sees the contradiction between the sentimental ideas of comfort and security with cold reality.
The issue of homelessness goes hand in hand with the lack of affordable housing, both as a national and an increasingly critical local issue. In “Affordable Housing,” Breschi represents shelter as a tent and large cardboard boxes as being “affordable” options. The accompanying data easily supports her point, from the disparity between local average wages and “housing wages” to the sheer lack of affordable dwellings available. Her visuals serve to reinforce the information included with each display, and vice-versa.
The large interior wall of the upstairs gallery provides space for “The BIG Picture.”
In a national map constructed of cardboard, mats, string and emboldened with acrylic paints, the undeniable facts are laid bare. Each state has stenciled the number of homeless individuals recorded during a national “point in time” count. Highlighting the tragic incidence of homeless veterans amongst those recorded, the star border and red, white and blue palette, only affirms this national tragedy.
In a nod to renowned street artist Banksy, an artist well-known for his own social commentary in his art, Breschi adapts his graffiti stencil style of a child seemingly releasing into the sky a string of small houses, alluding to the dream of home and stability. In “Tribute to Banksy,” the prevalence of homeless youths is emphasized.
Presenting the shocking statistic that about one in 10 young adults ages 18 to 25, and about one in 30 adolescents ages 13 to 17, experience some form of homelessness over the course of a year, the imagery captures the feeling of lost childhood innocence and the most foundational need, a stable home, being out of reach for the most vulnerable.
“Home Sweet Home” is able to draw in the viewer with its clean and direct compositions, to clearly present facts about homelessness of which many may not be aware. An exhibition presented without bias and with only an agenda of compassion, Breschi’s art and dedication to social engagement come together to prove the power of the visual message.
The viewer will not walk away unmoved; art of this caliber should inspire action and engagement, which is a testament of its true impact.
“Home Sweet Home—The Real Face of Homelessness” is on display at the Carlisle Arts Learning Center (CALC) until June 1. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, or by appointment. CALC is located at 38 W. Pomfret St., in Carlisle. The exhibition is free and open to the public. Visit www.CarlisleArts.org or call 717-249-6973 for more information.
Joseph George holds a degree in art history from Dickinson College. He and his wife, Barrie Ann have spent over 30 years together traveling and visiting art galleries locally and throughout the world. They have been writing about the local art scene for seven years. Their tastes range from fine art to street art.