“I didn’t know I was going to like painting, but it’s the color that I gravitate toward, so my stuff is all pretty loud,” says artist Marilyn Swartz, who’s getting ready to show a year’s worth of new paintings at the upcoming annual art show and sale put on by Art From The Streets, Austin’s long-standing art therapy non-profit.
“We’ve been working with the homeless and at-risk in Austin, Texas for twenty-six years. We’ve had shows all through the community, and this is our big annual show,” says Art From The Streets executive director Kelley Worden. Artists who participate in the program have free access to art supplies and studio space three days a week. “We work all year, gathering artwork and working with our artists in open studio. They paint [and] create beautiful pieces of work and have a culmination show, and that’s what this show is.”
The show will feature thousands of paintings by dozens of artists, including Swartz, a longtime drawer who only took up paiting a couple of years ago.
“This is my second year with Art From The Streets and I hadn’t painted before,” Swartz says. “I was at the Salvation Army waiting on housing, and I used to draw on my bunk and one of the artists from Art From The Streets said I should try it. So I went, and I loved painting. I love color and I’m so glad to be there.”
For this big annual show and sale, each artist can present up to one hundred paintings, and Swartz is aiming to bring the maximum. “The more you have, the more you’ll sell,” she says.
When artists like Swartz sell a work, almost all of the purchase price goes directly to them. “This show is about the artists and 95% of all sales goes directly back to them, so this is their showcase,” Worden says.
For Swartz, the money is important ("It supplements our income greatly, so we’re grateful for it,” she says), but it’s not the only reason she paints.
“It is freeing, and it’s somewhat therapeutic for me, and so it benefits me in that way also,” she says. “I’m creating what I feel, usually, so I get to put my feelings out on paper, and that’s really gratifying for me.”
Worden says that for the participating artists, the first day of the show can be an emotional one.
“They’re excited, they’re nervous, they’re scared, they’re happy, they’re sad,” she says. “It’s all a whole bunch of emotions for that day, so we look forward to having the public come and chat with the artists, talk about inspiration, and purchase some artwork.”