A Kilgore artist is using his talent to lend a new perspective into the lives of unique East Texans.
Anup Bhandari, who moved from Nepal to Kilgore in 2000 to pursue an art education at Kilgore College, spoke to Kilgore Rotary Club Wednesday about his art and his work at Newgate Mission, a faith-based organization in Longview providing services to homeless and low-income East Texans.
“I came here in 2000 to go to Kilgore College and I’m still here. This is like my home,” Bhandari told the Rotarians. He introduced Hollie Bruce, executive director of Newgate Mission.
“We have been working together with projects and the book we just published.”
Bhandari held up a copy of “Faces of Newgate”, an art book containing 27 portraits Bhandari painted of the people who use Newgate’s services to better their lives. The book was released earlier this year and profits from its sale benefit the mission.
The artist said his long journey from Nepal to Texas eventually brought him to Newgate Mission but KC was the place where he built his artistic foundation.
“When I first came here, I came to Kilgore College to do art. Then when I first got here, I had to take math, science, so that was very tough for me,” Bhandari said with a smile.
Eventually, he earned his associate’s degree in art from KC, taking photography and culinary classes along the way.
While living in East Texas, he became inspired to share his love of art with the community.
“About nine years ago, I started going to Newgate Mission. I wanted to get involved with art, to share my artistic skills and help the people at Newgate. When I first got there, they told me nobody was interested because you have to be friends and they have to trust you. So I started to get to know everybody there until everybody felt comfortable.”
Bhandari began leading art classes at Newgate and soon after, his art students began displaying their works to the public. Their first art show was held at the Longview Public Library and art shows have continued to this day, often held during Longview’s ArtWalk events downtown.
“We had a big support from the community and they started buying (the Newgate artists’) work. Every time they buy artwork by the Newgate artists, half the money goes to Newgate and half goes to the artist,” Bhandari said, noting art classes are held nearly every week at the mission.
Work on the book began almost two years ago and featured a famous Longview figure, Ruby Floyd.
Floyd, who died May 27, was a fixture in Longview, often seen riding around town on her bicycle and attending local football games and events. She was a regular in Bhandari’s art classes from the very beginning and sold many of her artworks. Her portrait appears in the book and Bhandari said making her portrait was a major inspiration to create the book.
“When he did Ruby’s portrait, this book wasn’t even an idea,” Bruce said. “It just evolved and he continued to do other portraits. The whole purpose, really, is to show that the people we serve are individuals. It’s very easy to lump a group of people into a category and say they’re all homeless, they’re all lazy, or whatever the stereotypes are that you hear.”
She added the book helps others see the humanity and passion of the people Newgate Mission serves.
Bruce said art classes at Newgate are therapeutic for the people helped by its services.
In addition to art classes, Newgate provides hot and sack lunches for the homeless, senior citizens on a fixed income and the working poor. It also facilitates medical services, housing and shelter referrals, educational classes, worship services and work programs.