Art

Of Art and Compassion: Skid Robot

One street artist is on a mission to not only make homeless populations across the US visible, but also to create outreach programs and events that help to get these forgotten members of society off of the streets.

Interview by Tiffany Credle – tiffany@citizenbrooklyn.com Photos by Skid Robot
JW receives art supplies from Skid Robot Photo © Skid Robot

JW receives art supplies from Skid Robot Photo © Skid Robot

Homelessness plagues many of the country’s cities.  Whether they are poor, rich or somewhere in between, many cities have a population that exists in a class unto themselves, they are often ignored except for when they are outright avoided, (like when we suddenly cross a street or switch train cars during a crowded commute).  One street artist is on a mission to not only make homeless populations across the US visible, but also to create outreach programs and events that help to get these forgotten members of society off of the streets.

Photo © Skid Robot

Photo © Skid Robot

Citizen brooklyn: How old were you when you got into graffiti/street art? And what was your motivation?

I was in high school when I first got into graffiti. Being a skater back then, I would see graffiti everywhere I went and thought it was dope. The culture was much more alive back then and I was motivated to put my name up like everyone else.

CBK: What made you want to do the National Art Campaign of Compassion project?

It’s a project that I feel would get more people involved in their own communities. By reaching out to non-profits and organizations nationwide that are actively helping their communities, we can organize events with them that would benefit the impoverished and bring more people to the cause via art, music and film. If we can establish a national network of citizens who are fighting for real change, we can find a solution to the problem of extreme poverty and homelessness.

Photo © Skid Robot

Photo © Skid Robot

CBK: What has been the most surprising part, memory and/or encounter about doing this project?

That’s a tough one, every painting has its own story and memorable moments.

I’d have to say Birdman would be most memorable; he has a few songs that he sang before to me and sometimes I find myself singing them. I once asked Birdman how he communicated with the birds and he stated he uses telepathy. Now the strange part it is he can actually make the birds come back and forth to him on command, which gives him some credibility. It fascinates me that he is able to do this and I ponder on it from time to time.

Birdman Photo © Skid Robot

Birdman Photo © Skid Robot

CBK: How has this changed the way you see the homeless? What do you wish society would understand about the homeless community?

People need to understand it isn’t only drug addicts and alcoholics on the streets. There are a lot of people who are mentally ill that have been abandoned, veterans who cant find work and entire families living on the streets because you can’t pay rent AND buy groceries on minimum wage anymore. Hyper inflation and low wages has led to extreme poverty and homelessness for many Americans and nothing is being done to resolve this serious social issue.

Birdman enjoys a lobster dinner provided by Skid Robot Photo © Skid Robot

Birdman enjoys a lobster dinner provided by Skid Robot Photo © Skid Robot

CBK: What has been the reaction to this series?

Most people enjoy the art; they think it’s humorous. However, at the same time people feel sympathy for the person that I paint around. People are reminded to be grateful for what they have and humble themselves. Others are inspired to do more acts of charity. It’s not often I get a negative reaction, other than the fact that it is graffiti and illegal. I understand what I am doing is against the law, however I am pointing out a bigger injustice taking place.

Ben Photo © Skid Robot

Ben Photo © Skid Robot

CBK: What has been the most challenging part of being a street artist and/or working on this project?

The biggest challenge art wise has been getting away with what I do, there is a lot of risk involved and Skid Row can be a dangerous place late at night. I know this will be the least of my challenges as the project continues to expand and evolve.

CBK: What other projects can we expect from you in the future.

Future ambitions include raising funds for public housing projects. Where we can provide help for those on the street based on the individual’s needs. Some need rehab, some are mentally ill and others simply can’t afford rent. We need to distinguish who’s who on the street and aid these people according to their issues. It’s about finding a permanent solution, not a temporary one. 

Tommy Smiles Photo © Skid Robot

Tommy Smiles Photo © Skid Robot

Look for more video documentary of the project on SkidRobotTV on Youtube to keep up to date with the mission.

Support Skid Robot’s National Art Campaign of Compassion at: http://www.gofundme.com/skidrobot

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