Art Expression Inc.

Homeless Children’s Education Fund:
Art Expression programming in homeless housing agencies

Youth artwork created for We Live Here Too exhibit, Fall 2016

Since 2013, Art Expression Inc. has partnered with the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) to create programs focused on HCEF’s mission to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness, guiding them to be productive, empowered citizens. As a national model for addressing the educational needs of unstably-housed children and youth, HCEF leads a collaborative effort among regional partners by providing educational programs and services in Allegheny County and advocating for policy and system improvement.

From the HeART is Art Expression’s shelter-based program that provides specialty workshops to meet the needs of children and families in homeless housing agencies. Workshops serve families, women, and children who are victims of domestic violence; children of recovering addicts; and youth experiencing homelessness. Through its partnership with the HCEF, Art Expression serves approximately 400 children and family members in area shelters each year.

In October 2015, Art Expression began an annual collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University’s Hear Me Project, the ToonSeum and the HCEF to present artwork and musical performances by area youth experiencing homelessness at a special event titled “We Live Here.” This exhibit turns a needed spotlight on the plight of young people who lack stable housing. Through this art show, youth not only gain confidence in their artistic abilities, but are also supported emotionally and financially. The third “We Live Here” will take place in the fall of 2017.

Beginning in the summer of 2017, Art Expression will also conduct programming for teens at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh branches through its HCEF partnership. In these workshops, youth will create art that will be on display in the “We Live Here” show in the fall.

“The art facilitator gave each child a small canvas and a plastic palette. The students were overjoyed with these materials and loved ‘pretending’ to be artists. The art facilitator reminded them that if they were making art, they WERE artists.

“One older girl created a sunset and, with encouragement from the art facilitator and staff, wrote a poem over it. The girl then shared her poem with the group and beamed with pride as she got lots of positive feedback. The kids were also open to being redirected to ask questions politely. When the art facilitator asked how this experience made them feel, a five-year-old girl exclaimed ‘I feel beautiful!’”

– Art facilitator program summary, From the HeART, transitional shelter for addicted mothers and their children, Spring 2016

A portable space heater made from clay flower pots, nuts, bolts, and spacers. The terra-cotta pots provided metaphors for change, growth and the cycle of life. They were decorated with Zentangles, a stress-reducing, meditative technique used to promote mindfulness and calm.
In an area shelter, a young girl was excited to learn “gradients” (the technique of blending and shading colors together to go from light to dark). She enjoyed creating her piece in the manner of Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.”
A group project focused on homes and families, created at an area shelter. The students discussed the things that make a house into a home and the different types of families. Then as a group, the students created a mural depicting a family and a home, along with wreaths to hang on the doors of rooms in the shelter to make their rooms into homes.

For more information about the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, please visit their website: