Ruby Floyd was happily high-kicking through the temporary art gallery at Newgate Mission Thursday night. She had reason to celebrate after selling five paintings.
“I made money, and I helped the Newgate,” Floyd said proudly, celebrating alongside her art teacher. “Well, I love him. He taught me how to draw.”
‘Gallery Night at Newgate’ was the first time the Longview mission’s clients – students of Kilgore artist Anup Bhandari – exhibited their works on-site at the Mobberly Avenue outreach to the homeless.
Under the Nepalese immigrant’s tutelage, they’ve shown (and sold) their pieces at numerous events in recent years, paint and pencil and, in Bhandari’s past ‘Eyes of the Homeless’ series, photography.
For Newgate Executive Director Hollie Bruce, the ‘Healing Arts Project’ at the center is providing a concrete, therapeutic escape for clients. Bhandari is giving homeless men, women and children – alongside other students – the opportunity to find untapped talents within and express themselves for others to see and, hopefully, come to understand.
“He comes in and does art and provides instruction and inspires people to create art here at Newgate,” she said.
Many of their works ultimately find buyers among Longview Museum of Fine Arts patrons and other supporters. A flowing crowd turned out for Newgate’s first Gallery Night Sept. 6, welcomed by the Newgate artists, proudly leading their guests along several tiers of artwork on the mission’s walls.
Among those pieces, Bhandari’s portraits of the facility’s clients looked on, accompanied by short biographies written by the subjects.
“Anup is beyond generous; he really is … With this population, they don’t have the opportunity or direction to have therapeutic outlets,” Bruce said. “If they can escape from negative circumstances, even it’s just for a little while, then we want to embrace that.
“You can just see the joy in their eyes and the pride they have in the work that they’re doing.”
Midway through the event, more than 20 paintings had already gone home with visitors. Each brought in $40 or more, split between the artists and the mission, giving Newgate’s clients investment in the Mobberly program.
One of Thursday’s exhibiting artists, Raiven Craig, volunteers at Newgate – Michelle Arnold purchased her textured, floral painting.
“I generally come to the exhibits, wherever they have been. It’s just amazing,” Arnold said. “It’s everything from one end to the other. You see all kinds of work, you see how it helps people address issues and get all sorts of things out on the canvas.”
Craig’s been drawing since the sixth grade, but she’s never really taken to painting until Bhandari’s lessons at Newgate.
“I started painting here every Tuesday during the summer. I let my imagination lead me somewhere,” she said. “He’s a really good art teacher. He helps us if we need help. Not only does he show us, he guides us through it.
“It relieves a lot of stress. It helps people that need to get things off of their minds.”
Looking across the one-night exhibition to the wall of Bhandari’s portraits, Bruce underscored the importance of the Kilgore resident’s impact on Newgate’s clients and on the people looking into each painted pair of eyes, each set unique.
“Everyone has a different story,” she said. “I think that a lot of times we make assumptions about people, that they have the same story or they fall into certain stereotypes. We can’t think like that.”
The Healing Art is helping tell their stories, Bruce added.
“It really gives a sense of humanity to the project.”