Art is Homeless opened on Sunday, September 1, at FIU’s Graham Center Art Gallery. The exhibition, led by two high school students, gives viewers a look into the faces of the Miami homeless.
Alexander and Christopher Kiener are twin, sixteen-year-old brothers in the International Baccalaureate program at Coral Reef Senior High School. As a means of serving their community, and emphasizing the issue of Miami homelessness, the brothers decided to put their biggest talent to use: photography. Hence, they started Art Is Homeless. With the help of their father, Joe Kiener – who is, in fact, a photographer himself – Alexander and Christopher went out into the Miami community and started on their project.
An AmeriCorps Vista volunteer at Miami Coalition for the Homeless, named Sean Dollard, discovered the Kieners’ photography and cause through Facebook and other social media.
“Essentially, I really got a feel for how passionate [the brothers] were about the issue, and thought their work was quite impressive,” said Dollard. “I eventually thought it would be wise to sit down with my supervisor, Ms. Ibarra, and discuss having a [meeting] with the family….After I showed her their work and explained how often they engaged with our social media pages, she agreed to a meeting.”
Barbara Ibarra, the Executive Director of the Miami Coalition for the Homeless, was impressed by the Kieners’ art and philanthropy. She decided to search for an exhibition space.
Ibarra currently works with Dean Brian Schriner of the College of Architecture + the Arts. The Miami Coalition for the Homeless partners with CARTA’s Department of Communication Arts, which provides public speaking training for the Coalition’s Speaker’s Bureau and staff. Thus, Ibarra only had to turn to Dean Schriner to discuss the Kieners’ work, before she had found a gallery to host Art is Homeless.
Currently, the Kieners’ photography lines the walls of the Graham Center Art Gallery, as FIU students rest, talk, and play piano in the space.
Faces fill the frames. Some of the men and women in the photographs seem mellow, and others, saddened; some distressed, and others, hopeful. Students enjoying leisure in the gallery can now stop, observe the photographs, and allow themselves to ponder the struggles of destitution.
Ibarra considers Art is Homeless a significant contribution to the community. “[The Kieners] are certainly bringing attention to a long-standing community issue, a national issue, [and], actually, a global issue….and [to] the experiences of homelessness….”
Ibarra was grateful to see art join philanthropy through this new exhibition. “…It could be you or [me]. There are very different reasons…people experience homelessness. And this, at least, opens the door for dialogue and discussion around that issue in an artistic manner. So, hopefully, we’re reaching a world of people that maybe would not be exposed to it, but because of their love for art and the appreciation of the arts, they may grow in their awareness of this critical, community issue.”
Coinciding with Art is Homeless is a fundraiser, “Miami Cares 2013.” Alexander and Christopher Kiener, along with FIU students and other high school students, plan to ask local restaurants to join them in the fight against homelessness. The team of “Miami Cares” will ask restaurants to encourage one-dollar donations from their customers. These donations will go towards Miami’s Camillus House. The effort will last eight weeks during the late Fall.
Dr. Paul R. Ahr, the President and CEO of Camillus House, commented on the Kieners’ service through photography. He said, “This project is valuable on multiple levels and has a massive spirit….The first level of these photographs captured the inner beauty of each person. On the second level, it provides a genuine opening for discussion between those of us on the homeless side of the equation and those who are on the civilian side of the equation.”
Ahr is proud to support the Kieners, who, he believes, are showing the true, inner identities of the homeless. “I am blown away by these young men capturing the soul of so many people. People who have never been recognized will experience an uplifting element from this exhibition.”
Dean Schriner of CARTA is glad to have supported the Kiener brothers. “The faculty and students of the College of Architecture + the Arts believe in the power of the arts to create, innovate, and inspire solutions to critical social issues. We are proud to be partnering with Art is Homeless and the Miami Coalition for the Homeless on such an important project.”
What was a simple phrase graffitied under an overpass, discovered by the Kiener brothers, has now become the title of a campaign and exhibition started by the two young, teenage brothers. Florida International University welcomes Art is Homeless this week as a part of the history of the Graham Center Art Gallery.
Art is Homeless is on display from Sunday, September 1 to Tuesday, September 10, at the Florida International University Graham Center Art Gallery, located at the South entrance of Graham Center, 11200 SW 8th Street. Free and open to the public.