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Eugene exhibit highlights unhoused artists

A person holding up a framed painting. The person is smiling. The painting has many colors and the word "MOM."
Nathan Wilk
Micheala Landreth is one of the artists featured in the exhibit. She contributed a painted tribute to her mother.

A new exhibit in Eugene is spotlighting the work of local homeless artists.

The Oregon Supported Living Program hosts a weekly art class for people living in transitional shelter. The participants are all clients of Community Supported Shelters, another Eugene-based non-profit.

Organizers of this class say they have aimed to make the creative process more accessible, by tackling barriers like price and transportation.

Jason Krueger, a support worker with the CSS program, said every person has artistic ideas. But he said previously, some unhoused clients may have lacked the resources to make them a reality.

“With this program, there's pretty much every material an artist could ever want,” said Kreuger. “It's like being a kid in a candy store.”

Now, the participants' finished work will be on display at OSLP’s Arts and Culture Center, located at 110 E 11th Ave in downtown Eugene. The exhibit includes paintings, sculptures, and furniture, as well as a single-person shelter that's been decorated with artwork.

Micheala Landreth is one of exhibit's artists. She said she before this program, she hadn't done much art for several years. But today, she said it's a joy to have creatives from across the city together in the same space.

“It's a peaceful, calm place, where you can just free your mind,” said Landreth. “Whatever your problems are at the time, you just take a break, breathe, and just create something beautiful.”

For this exhibit, Landreth contributed a painted tribute to her mother, who died before the piece was done. As she began to cry, Landreth said she was nonetheless happy to be able to share it.

“My mother made my life colorful, and always was trying to make it the best she could,” said. “I was hard to deal with, but she's my best friend. And her love for me was unconditional.”

 A person holding two paintings. The person is standing in front of a piano.
Nathan Wilk
Aleksei Osuna said his paintings often include science fiction imagery. "I feel like at some point in our life, we are going to end up living this kind of life," he said.

Another artist, Aleksei Osuna, said the act of painting saved him when he became homeless during the pandemic. But he said this program has allowed him to broadcast that work to the world.

“There are some pieces that I can see ‘oh, this scratch—it was the day that I had to walk away from the bench, and the security was chasing me,’” said Osuna. “And so the pain, the happiness, and the experience that I live is all expressed in the art.”

One of the exhibit's collaborative works is a collection of individually painted keys, which together form a super-sized outline of the object. Kreuger, the support worker, said he sees the installation as a sign of hope.

“For the unhoused, a key to get into a door of your own space means everything," he said.

Many of the pieces in the exhibit will be available for sale. Organizers say a portion of those proceeds will help fund future classes, but a majority will go towards the artists themselves.

"In the end, I would like to be able to do this full time," said Osuna. "If I could paint through my life, and then make my living out of that, that would be my dream come true."

The exhibit also features work by program staff. It opens July 5, and will run through Aug. 23.

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.