COLORADO SPRINGS — A local program is helping the homeless population re-create the canvas in their lives.
Weekly classes take place at (In)rich studio in the Knights of Columbus Hall in downtown Colorado Springs. The founder created it as a safe space for people facing homelessness, who want to express themselves.
Jansen Howard opened (In)Rich Studio in late 2019 after facing homelessness herself as a young adult.
"I was homeless for about four years, and in order to get off the streets, I went to school for art," said Howard. "It literally lit a fire under me and became my passion."
Howard got her bachelor's degree and is currently an art therapy student. About a year and a half ago, she also got the position as a street outreach program manager for Homeward Pikes Peak.
With her experience as an art therapy student and her position at Homeward Pikes Peak, she wanted to merge the two and that's when she began the studio.
One thing she learned through personal experience?
"You can't create change if you cant imagine it first, so I see the studio as a way of imagining a different life, or a different road or a different path to take," said Howard. "This is basically a space for people to come express and be themselves.
The studio was closed most of the pandemic, but it re-opened early this year. Howard said, "People are just more lively here and happy to be here, empowered by being able to express themselves."
People like Charles Matthewreece didn't always have the opportunity to be creative because of their living situation, but the studio has provided a space to do that.
"It's hard when you're out on the streets. You can't save your stuff, you have to carry everything in a backpack, and things get damaged," said Matthewreece. "I don't have a studio, so I come here and they provide me with everything I need, like paints, acrylics, clays. Whatever you need, this is where you come and create."
Matthewreece is among the nearly 100 people facing homelessness, who've gone to the studio to create. Some use the art as a way to cope, while others use it as a chance to get back on their feet.
"It helps you to be more creative yourself. So it just helps energize your creative flow," said Matthewreece. "I'm just very grateful for her (Howard) and the opportunity to sell my work and hopefully get off the streets."
(IN)rich studio is open every Friday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Howard hopes to have public art shows in the future, featuring artwork that was created. She also wants to expand to other locations and have studios open a couple of days every week.