Can art help lift people out of homelessness? New job training program in VB teaches the business of public art

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A newly completed mural now brightens up the Housing Resource Center off Witchduck Road in Virginia Beach. If you look closely, you’ll see it tells a story.

The artwork is the result of the new pilot program Brushworks, a job training program where people experiencing homelessness are hired to work with a professional artist to paint murals while gaining valuable professional skills.

“Public art isn’t just about painting and beautifying; it’s also about the business management, time management, how to work collaboratively with a team while also working with a client to help produce a work of art that’s reflective of what the clients wants as well,” said Nina Goodale the Creative Placemaking and Public Art Coordinator at the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Participants went through an interview and hiring process. Those selected are paid for their work.

The Virginia Beach Cultural Affairs Department created the program in partnership with the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation.

“It’s a chance for members of our community who are experiencing hardships and maybe are down on their luck or having a hard time to be part of a project that is positive, and encouraging and allows them to express themselves and that be very therapeutic,” explained Virginia Beach Councilmember Michael Berlucchi, a champion of the project.

Officials hired professional artist Nadd Harvin to lead the team.

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“I let them tell that story. I’m just here to be the glue,” said Harvin.

Harvin guided the artists and helped craft their vision for the piece.

“It’s a classic beach scene but through the lens of folks who are experiencing homelessness,” Harvin said.

On one side, a bench sits on the boardwalk, looking through the rails at the sandy beach and Atlantic Ocean. The mural moves on through the Oceanfront, with various symbols to represent organizations who have helped the artists such as a starfish to symbolize the Star of the Sea outreach program.

The mural finishes on a home, with the painted slogan “No one is home until everyone is home.”

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