Formerly Homeless Kids Present Art

August 20, 2004

CHILDREN who were once homeless will present their art,influenced by their former lives of crack smoking and glue sniffing,armed robbery, prostitution and meals from restaurant trash cans.The exhibit, called “Out of the Labyrinth,” will open to the publicfor one month starting tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Children’sMuseum in San José.Gail Nystrom, founder of the Humanitarian Foundation in CostaRica that has rescued the children from the streets, said the exhibitshows the three-year process of where the kids came from andwhere they are now.“Because the kids have never had a parent to encourage them,this art exhibit is our way to show how they are doing and how theyare making a positive effort to make a life for themselves. They arecreating something rather than destroying themselves now,”Nystrom said.The group of 10 whose work is featured in the exhibition werepicked up in 2001, Nystrom said, and have stayed in an anonymouslydonated home in Ciudad Colón, 25 km west of San José.“They spent their days on the streets or in municipal jails, sleepingon cement floors, without food, water, bath or toilets,” Nystromwrote in a statement. “Their friendships were based on who had themost strength, who could earn by robbing the most people or usinga knife with the most skill.“After three years of painful, difficult experiences full oflessons, these youth have overcome their problems. They are startingto leave the labyrinth that was their life.”A ROTATING group of volunteers for the foundation, of whichthere are five now, work with the kids and help track those that nolonger live in the home. Ten children have left the home, Nystromsaid, either to live in shelters, go back to their homes or were sent tojail.The exhibition will feature a simulation of life on the street – aholding cell like those to which the kids used to be taken by the police,a cardboard carton like those in which they may have slept on thestreet – and a maze. The paintings will be arranged in order from mostdark, depressed, scared themes to brightest and most happy.“We really want to thank all the people who supported us,”Nystrom said. “It was worth it in the end. Even though there werereally hard times it’s possible to change people’s lives.”That was something she said they didn’t know when they beganthe project, but she has seen the good the foundation has done forthe kids.The paintings will be on sale through a silent auction at whichbidders pledge an initial $50. Half of the money will enter a jointbank account for each artist co-signed with Nystrom, the other halfwill go to publish a book of the art that Nystrom will write, and thebook sales will support foundation.The foundation is seeking volunteers to participate in activitieswith the kids and for monetary donations as well as items such asfood, shoes, used clothing, toothpaste and shampoo.For more info, call the Children’s Museum at 258-4929 or GailNystrom at 390-4192 or 837-5205.

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