Mural tells story of people experiencing homelessness

ALBANY – Albany Medical College students hosted a mural painting event Saturday designed to share the stories of people dealing with homelessness.

Each panel told a compelling story from interviews conducted at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless and Family Promise of the Capital Region last summer by medical college student Andrew Kwok, co-leader of Empowering Arts, a program at the college that partners to serve the community through artistic expression and community building projects.

The students created the mural painting event called the “Shared Connections Project,” for the visual representation to fight the stigmas and raise awareness of the struggles of homelessness.

“The original idea of ​​this event was to spread awareness of the narrative of experiences of homelessness in Albany,” said Annette Kaminaka, an Albany Medical College student and co-leader of Empowering Arts. “There’s not a lot of opportunities for exposure to engage with this community, so we created this service-learning program with that intention.”

The event was held in Jim DiNapoli Park, outside of Albany Center Gallery, with community members stopping through and painting words of affirmation on a three-panel mural created by featured artist Jade Warrick, also known as TrashKID Art.

“Members of the community sharing their strengths, faith, and hope is uplifting. And that is what I really wanted to showcase in this art piece,” Warrick said.

Kwok had previously worked as a volunteer at the gallery, and has continued to collaborate alongside its executive director, Tony Iadicicco.

“Over the past summer, I went to both sites to interview some of the guests who were comfortable enough to have a conversation with me,” Kwok said. “We wanted to hear their stories and see if they had something they wanted to express to the community of Albany and the world.”

“Bringing artists into conversations and community programming is super important because they approach it with an understanding and a responsibility of how important it is to share stories and how people can depict that with a visual art piece,” Iadicicco said.

The students also cited a lack of connection between the practice of medicine and the areas of arts and humanities. The project reflects the significance of how connections are made when a bridge is created to build dialogue through art and community engagement, they said.

“As medical students, one thing we want to do is make sure that our fellow medical students and future physicians have an awareness of what individuals experiencing homelessness are going through since they are going to be future patients of ours,” said Shivali Gupta, another co-leader of Empowering Arts.

She continued, “An issue in medicine, and often the root of a lot of health inequities, is that physicians are not aware of the stories and experiences of individuals experiencing homelessness. That is one of our goals of Empowering Arts, and one of the many reasons we all wanted to do this is to make sure that our fellow medical students and volunteers are able to see that.”

The mural created is also movable, and it was planned to be moved between Albany Medical College, IPH and Family Promise.

“We want to spread it around so more people can see it,” Kwok said.

The students plan for Empowering Arts to continue to grow as a program so future students can partake in it as a way to connect with their community in a more interpersonal and creative way. With that, they continue to build relationships with underrepresented communities in Albany through art.

“Art heals, art has the power to heal and can create change and inspire, and that is exactly what this project is,” said Iadicicco.

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