Patrick #1 by Gerald O'Connell

Portrait project raises funds and awareness about homelessness

Artist Gerald O’Connell and students at St Mungo’s Broadway Recovery College, London, have teamed up for a new project to raise funds and awareness about homelessness.

Gerald has become the new artist in residence at the Recovery College in Southwark, which is run by homeless charity St Mungo’s Broadway. He will create portraits of the people he meets for subsequent sale at a charity auction in London later this year, with all proceeds to be donated to St Mungo’s Broadway.

The Recovery College is a project which offers a variety of free courses aimed at people who have experienced homelessness. With courses on art as well as wellbeing, self-esteem and vocational skills, the college helps boost people’s confidence and share their talents as they rebuild their lives from being homeless.

Gerald’s interest in depicting people with an experience of homelessness began several years ago and some of his earlier work on this theme can be seen in his online gallery.

He said: “People who’ve had difficult experiences, such as being homeless, have gone through a great deal in their lives.

“There is something very powerful about the way their experience has shaped their appearance and character, giving it an emotional depth not always evident in other subjects.

“I try to capture some of this in my work, but I also strive to give my portraits a sense of dignity that reflects the enormous resilience and inner strength that these people have.”

Gerald said: “The Recovery College is a superb institution, one that deserves widespread recognition for its far-sighted work, and I feel privileged to be involved with its activities.

“I give copies of my completed work to each person involved, and I hope this will make some small contribution to enhancing their self-esteem.

“Above all, I believe that they should be seen not as victims but as the successes and survivors that they are.”

You can follow the progress of Gerald O’Connell’s portrait project with Recovery College students on the Portrait Progress blog.


(image: Patrick #1 by Gerald O’Connell)