If you live or you're familiar with LA, you know that there is an heartbreaking and unsettling amount of homeless people living in the streets of Los Angeles, especially in Downtown. A huge part of the population lives in Skid Row, a 54-block area that is the largest concentration of homeless people. When you walk through these streets and see how these people live, it's no question that this is a humanitarian issue that needs to be solved.
The Skid Robot Project's mission, is that art is the solution. It's human nature to believe and absorb the environment we live in. That's why the Skid Robot spends his time, and fuels his humanitarian campaign by helping create a more beautiful environment for these homeless people to live in through his street art.
What specific moment led me to the Skid Robot Project?
The exact moment was while I was out on a date with my girlfriend at the time. I had been out catching spots (doing graffiti) and had expressed to her how I wanted to do something different with my art.
We pulled up to a red light in Skid Row and took notice to someone sleeping on the pavement. My girlfriend suggested that I should paint this person dreaming of money. I thought the idea was brilliant, so I grabbed a spray an and brought this idea to life. Skid Robot became to evolve at that point. The more time I spent doing this project, the more obligated I felt to help alleviate the hardships of the people I have met and to contribute to the solution of Skid Row.
While I'm out creating art among the homeless people, what's the process and vibes?
Nowadays, we meet people while we're on outreach missions. In the beginning of Skid Robot, it had a more stealthy approach: I would paint dream bubbles over people sleeping, and would tag pine trees and crescent moons behind tents. On one occasion, I startled a man while painting a piece above him, and we almost got in a fight. It was at this point that I decided to change my approach and would take a more courteous angle. Rather than do my art while they're asleep, I now introduce myself, offer care packages, and tell them about my mission. Ends up, most people are cool with having their photo taken, and if someone declines we respect their decision.
To be honest, the vibes in these environments are mostly negative. The art truly transforms the energy of the place it inhabits. During the installation of the "Skid Row Oasis," some residents at first were skeptical and a little aggressive at the sight of a spray can. However, by the time the palm trees and hammock were set up, it turned into a big street party right there on San Julian Street.
What's my most memorable experience, or individual I've came across in my movement?
My most memorable experience would be meeting the "Birdman" while I painted him a bedroom. He shared a few good stories, and even sang me some of his own original music. I even remember the lyrics! There was a total of 5 pieces created for him under the 101 Freeway & Alvarado. His favorite was the outdoor living room because it brought him back to a reality he once knew. He enjoyed the comfort of the couch, and being able to eat off a table again.
For him, this was the moment and catalyst for the change he needed. Shortly after, he sought help to get into a low-income housing program. We're very glad to say he's no longer homeless and is living in a swanky apartment overlooking MacArthur Park.
How does my art affect those that live in Skid Row?
It affects them in a way that only art can. Changing the environment changes the perception from negative to positive. I recently painted a memorial for a woman who's son was a veteran and had ended up on Skid Row. Unfortunately, those were the streets he lost his life to. The mural was painted where he passed and the residents of the block who knew him well appreciated the art, and made sure that no one messes with it.
Another example is the "King without a Castle" series. Painting thrones for the homeless who are in wheel chairs immediately lifts their spirits. For that one moment, it makes them feel as they are royalty, and in a way that's reminiscent of playing pretend as a child. The smile it brings to their faces is genuine. It's rewarding to be able to leave an impact like that through art.
If you had the opportunity to make this next level in whatever way, what/how would it be and why?
Ultimately, the goal we are working toward is creating an emergency & temporary, as well as permanent housing solution for the homeless and low-income citizens. Through the power of art, design, technology, and most importantly the human spirit, we can begin to solve the housing crisis.
"The Living Art Project" is the vision of using modified container homes as housing. It would include vibrant murals from acclaimed artists that would also serve as an outdoor art gallery that the community can appreciate. Container homes are one of the only options that can be a tangible solution, but there are other options to discover, like 3D printing and small scale homes. It's not that there is a lack of solutions, but more of a lack of executive action taken by elected officials.
For the time being we have started a Patreon with the goal of obtaining a work space and storage facility where we can coordinate with other like minded passionate citizens who want to make a difference. By having this space to store donations, we can build out installations and host community meetings that would help us organize our efforts to make a larger difference collectively on the streets.