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Art as an Advocacy Tool for the Homeless

MONDAY NOVEMBER 17, 2014     6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
141 West 21st Street, New York, NY 10011 in room 101c

Homelessness is a complex and longstanding issue in the City of New York. Presented by More Art and the Visual & Critical Studies department at SVA, this panel brings together representatives of four homeless service providers from nonprofits and government. Each group offered a unique approach to this deeply important issue. The focus of the panel was about how art can be used as a transformative tool for the homeless, and the ways in which artists can get involved. More Art will screen a short film about Residents of New York, a public work by Andres Serrano as a case study for using art to help raise the cultural consciousness surrounding this critical issue. Representatives from the Department of Homeless Services, Theater of the Oppressed NYC, Picture the Homeless, and New York Cares joined moderator William McAllister in a timely and meaningful conversation.


Susan Craine, Director, Community and Corporate Programs, New York Cares is the Director of Community Programs at New York Cares, which is an affiliate of Hands on Network. New York Cares is New York City’s largest volunteer management organization. Since 1987, New York Cares has run vital programs for 1,300 nonprofits, public schools, and city agencies to help people in need throughout the five boroughs, and does so at no cost to the recipient organizations. She received her Masters of Public Administration at the City University of New York, Baruch College in 2012 and graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications.

John Leo, Facilitator, Theatre of the Oppressed NYC is an experienced Joker, and has facilitated many of TONYC’s troupes with homeless adults and youth. Mr. Leo is also a Pediatric Clown “Doctor” with the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit and has toured with Clowns Without Borders to Mexico ’04 & Guatemala ’10. He is a graduate from the Dell ‘Arte School of Physical Theatre. Before joining TONYC in the summer of 2011,he studied Theatre of the Oppressed in Guatemala with Stephane Gue and with Falconworks in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Marcus Moore, Leader of Civil Rights and Housing Campaigns, Picture The Homeless has been with PTH for nearly five years. He says, “In the shelter, I found a flyer for some place called Picture the Homeless. It wasn’t a job, so none of the other guys in the shelter were interested, but I saw “Civil Rights” and “Housing Rights” and I said, ‘I need to be a part of this.’ These people looked just like me, they weren’t wealthy, but they knew the system backwards and forwards and really on point. I was feeling unbalanced and dis-empowered, and I didn’t have the vocabulary to express it or do something about it, but these people showed me how.”

Maaji Newbold, Homeless Actor, Theatre of the Oppressed NYC has been an actor with Theatre of the Oppressed NYS’s Concrete Justice troupe since 2011. She’s been in three plays: Hellter Shelter, Park Bench Prophet, and the Housing Circus. She’s also contributed to their Street Poetry book and Street Vendors documentary project.

Heidi Schmidt, Public Affairs Manager, Office of External Affairs, NYC Department of Homeless Services served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a rural village in South Africa. She supported the country’s transition to a more democratic society by implementing new school curriculum standards, developing partnerships between local villages, and creating HIV awareness, testing and prevention programs. After returning, she obtained her master’s degree in International Economic Development from New York University while working at the Department of Homeless Services as the Public Affairs Manager. Heidi continues to advocate for homeless families and individuals, and maintains that affordable housing, compassion, and strong social services are imperative to solving the homeless crisis in New York City.


William McAllister Ph. D., Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Mellon Interdisciplinary Fellows Program/INCITE, Columbia University has conducted research on homelessness for over twenty years and has published this research in foundation reports and in major journals. Most recently, he and his colleagues published a report entitled Frequent Users Service Enhancement: An Evaluation (2013). He is married to the artist Jill Glover.

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