Despite homelessness, an artist continues his work

Pictured is Vincent Watts. Photo by Tessa Wild.

When Street Sense Media vendor Vincent Watts says one of his defining attributes is being “observant,” it is easy to find his fortune in possessing such a trait. After all, what better ability would serve someone engaged in the creation of visual art, something that has been a life-long interest of his?

“I started doing art when I was about three years old,” Vincent says. “My mom noticed my talent, like, right-off-the-bat, and she put me in a private art school. Whenever I couldn’t play with my toys or go outside on a rainy day, I was sketching the Ninja Turtles or something. I was always into art.”

Vincent’s early and never-waning interest took him from his native Detroit to the city he considers his second home, Chicago. There, after already having begun studying at a community college, he enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago, earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. His medium is computer graphics. “You can call it digital art,” he says. Arriving here in Washington, D. C. just shy of a year ago this October, Vincent says his artistic interests have expanded to now include architecture.

Since being in Washington, Vincent has been seeking employment opportunities. While doing so, he has made use of the chance offered by Street Sense Media. When asked why he decided to become one of the newspaper’s vendors, he says it is because of the opportunity “to sell something.” He goes on to add that “I actually used to be in sales. I’ve been in sales for quite some time.” When it comes to selling the paper, Vincent explains it this way: “To me, my perception is it’s a lot better than just asking for cash, so the idea appealed to me, the whole concept was kind of a unique experience.”

Though not now having a place of his own in which to pursue his art, Vincent does not consider himself homeless. Because of the shelter where he stays, he says of his current circumstances, “I don’t want to refer to it as a homeless situation, ‘cause you have someplace to go. I consider homeless being, like, literally homeless – no place to go. You do have resources and services available at a lot of these shelters.”

Not having his own place, however, has not stopped Vincent from doing what he loves, and here, too, Street Sense Media has helped, affording him the opportunity to provide illustrations to the newspaper. In fact, the art work of vendors will be an integral part of the organization’s upcoming fifteenth anniversary celebration on September 25, 2018, aptly titled Art Brings Us Home. The commemoration will include photography, illustration, interactive art, poetry and writing, theater, film, and audio production, and will feature a silent auction and raffles for prizes and artwork.

One of Vincent’s stated goals is “getting a job, getting back on my feet.” When asked if that means returning to sales, he says he’d like to do something else. Referencing his background in the fine arts, he shares that he’d “love to go into that,” and that working with art students here in the city is also something he’d like to do. “I’m putting my best efforts forward. I’m reaching out to a lot more people so, hopefully, the feedback will kind of give me a new approach.”

Issues |Art

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.