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Thursday, June 1, 2023

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Inocente, a partner of Art Without a Roof, was impacted by homelessness. Inocente, a partner of Art Without a Roof, was impacted by homelessness.

Art as Inspiration

Art Without a Roof is inspiring disadvantaged local artists through a unique social enterprise.
By Hallie Jacobs

Inocente spent nine years as a homeless youth in America.

The San Diego native was in and out of temporary living spaces without a home to call her own.

"Being homeless doesn't mean waking up on the street everyday," she explained. "It can mean constantly moving between shelters, friend's houses and apartments you get evicted from. Nothing ever feels like home."

At the Monarch School — a San Diego school for homeless youth — Inocente was able to express herself through the outlet of art. Although times were dark, Inocente enjoyed using bright colors and happy subject matter to bring light into her life.

Through her artwork, Inocente — whose personal story was turned into an Academy Award-winning film — has been able to combat homelessness and discover her voice as a flourishing artist.

"My life depends on being an artist," she said. "When I paint I like to see things from my imagination. New creatures or colors. Out there in the world things aren't very colorful so maybe if they were a little more colorful, they would make people a little happier."

Now 20-years-old, Inocente is active with art-related organizations and sees the potential they have to impact the lives of those less fortunate.

Enter Art Without a Roof. Developed by two recent San Diego State University graduates, the company's mission is to positively change the lives of impacted artists by bringing them greater opportunity for higher education and sustainable lifestyles.

Inocente chose to get involved with the company because she appreciated the goal to give back to the students.

"I am working with Art Without a Roof with the hopes of getting more involved with disadvantaged artists in San Diego," she said.

About the cause

Art Without a Roof is an apparel company designed to inspire social responsibility through the creative expression of at-risk artists by bringing them greater opportunity for higher education and sustainable lifestyles.

"We offer apparel featuring designs created by artists that are impacted by obstacles in their lives, such as homelessness, mental illness, bullying, combat and more," said Matthew Wayne, '14, a business management graduate, and co-founder of Art Without a Roof.

"We embed a donation from each sale to fund educational scholarships for our impacted artists, as well as fund expressive art programs."

The program — which kicked off with the help of SDSU's Zahn Innovation Center — partners with the Monarch School and other local art-based charities who have provided the opportunity to build relationships with student artists.

Working with the artists, Art Without a Roof takes the original designs created by the artists and prints them on shirts, bags and other apparel. Fifteen percent of the proceeds from the sales go back to the artists for scholarships and sustainable living practices, and five percent is donated to local art programs aimed at helping underprivileged youth.

"Through our contributions, we will fund the first crucial steps our artists need to receive higher education and stimulate long-term success," said Adam Elhbashy, '14, a public administration graduate and co-founder of Art Without a Roof.

Art as therapy

"There is a real need for arts in the community," Wayne said. "Art improves brain function, helps with post-traumatic stress disorder and can serve as a therapeutic outlet."

A major goal of the program is to increase funds that benefit local art-related charities.

"Art positively affects our community, Elhbashy said. "If we can help at-risk people through art and increase the public's exposure to art, our cause comes full-circle."  

Sharing the love

Art Without a Roof launched a Kickstarter campaign to expand their growing business on Oct. 27.

The goals of the campaign are to expand the product line to support more artists and raise awareness to the social issues the program aims to combat.

"We want to help these artists, not exploit them," Wayne said. "We want our program to bring attention to their talent and help them get recognized for their work."

Learn more about Art Without a Roof, visit their website, Facebook and Twitter pages.