Pioneer Center helps homeless community through art

By Christine Such

In Illinois, there are 10,798 people homeless on a given night; 8.4 homeless per 10,000 people in the general population. Half of the homeless population is outside of Chicago; nearly one thousand in the Western suburbs of Kane, McHenry Aurora, and Elgin.

Jordan Debbink, the Special Events & Volunteer Coordinator at the Pioneer Center is trying to make a dent in that number.

Artist Nancy Seidres with her donated piece for Empty Bowls. (Photo by Christine Such/Sun Day)

Artist Nancy Seidler with her donated piece for Empty Bowls. (Photo by Christine Such/Sun Day)

“We are inviting you to attend our 2nd annual Empty Bowls Art Auction for homelessness on Friday, April 5. There are 120 tickets being sold at $35 each. Guests are invited to walk through an exclusive, one-night-only gallery comprised of work created by artists depicting homeless as they experienced or witnessed,” she said.

This night is captioned as a philanthropic art auction supporting homelessness in McHenry County. Offered also are wine and cheese pairing and a silent and buy now auction of the art pieces.

Debbink has 11 years’ experience in nonprofit best practices and 5 years in special education programming.

He emphasizes, “I want to be remembered for how I made people feel. Part of the joy of living is the ability to meet individuals where they are and lift them up. Human services offer me the access to live this out.”

Debbink has invited artists to participate in this event.

Last year, the auction featured works of the very young, artists by trade, and the homeless.

Debbink said, “Those pieces of last year are still viewed by the population The Woodstock City Hall displays some pieces. Other works of art are rotated through the library and church.”

“Why art?” asks Debbink. “When you are telling a story, often time words cannot do justice to what you are describing. As we worked with our artists, we realized how much more captivating and empowering their works of art were in telling our stories.”

The U.S. Department of Education compiled data showed during the 2016-2017 School year an estimated 50,949 students in the public school experienced homelessness over the course of the year here in Illinois.

Natalie Wolfe, one of the artists who donated, said, “I have loved art since I was two. I always have tried to be a partner in helping people. My piece is called ‘Blind Sight.’ It speaks of the homeless. It’s there but you can’t really see it consciously.”

Other artists agree.

Nancy Seidres, another donating artist, said, “I have been doing art all my life. I studied art at the Art Institute and taught at McHenry College. After I retired I connected with Pioneer. I want the homeless to know that they are not forgotten. My painting symbolizes the connection with the mind and body.”

A homeless person’s art piece was done in pencil and portrays a skillful rendering of homeless faces.

Debbink states, “I look at this and I want to say I know this person, but it is a rendering image, the homeless lose their identity. The artist is trying to put a face to the homeless.”

The challenge is not only to make the population here in McHenry and Kane county aware that this is a problem here – homelessness, but also solicit their care about the problem. Debbink states, “A lot of people don’t want to admit there is this struggle here. One life event and you can find yourself homeless.”

“While the world continues to turn outside the boundaries of McHenry County … for one night we invite you to be a part of lifting each other up through the calmness found in storytelling and relationships,” said Debbink.