Outside In

On Saturday, December 15, a group of volunteers created an unusual photography exhibit on the Palmer Street façade of 8 Brattle Street in Harvard Square. With the help of a cherry picker they pasted 35 posters, 3 by 4.5 feet each, on the brick wall, all of them portraits of homeless youth by photographer and homeless advocate Anthony Pira. All of the portraits were of members of Youth on Fire, a homeless youth drop-in center in Harvard Square, and the volunteers hanging the posters were from Youth on Fire as well. The art installation was followed by a public reception, for which food was generously provided by many member of the Harvard Square Business Association.

Along with the large-scale black-and-white portraits were posters with facts about youth homelessness. The exhibit draws attention to a segment of society, homeless youth, who are generally ignored. Able to blend in with their peers in their day-to-day life, their homelessness is invisible. Anthony Spira seeks to change that invisibility through his work, not only by taking portraits of homeless youth, but also by raising money to get young people off the street with a project called “Invisible Faces,” and is raising money to fund the project on Kickstarter.com. He aims to raise $27,000, money which will go directly to youth homelessness programs and provide stipends to these young people. The money will also allow Spira’s work to continue, with the eventual aim of 140 portraits and a gallery showing.

Saturday’s art installation was the first action of the Outside In Project’s national campaign, “Creating Art to End Homelessness.” The installation presents the concept that “Youth are homeless for three reasons: home doesn’t exist, home isn’t safe, or home isn’t supportive.” The theme of the installation is “It only takes one courageous person to make a difference,” and invites the public to enter a conversation about solutions to ending youth homelessness, both onsite and on the Internet. The Outside In Project, which was created by the Boston-based Center for Social Innovation, plans to create events in 10 cities in 2013, cities selected for their work in ending homelessness.

Along with the large-scale photographs, there is a smaller display of art by painter Marc Clamage, which has been hung in the Palmer Street windows of the Coop and Coop Café. For the past two years, Clamage has been painting a series of oil portraits of the homeless panhandlers in Harvard Square. As well as painting portraits, he has been recording the stories of the people he paints, and posting both the paintings and the recordings on his website, ipaintwhatisee.com.

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