Hobos to Street People

Artists Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to Present

About the Show

Vagrants, transients, hobos, tramps, and street people-whatever names we have used to describe their particular circumstances, homeless people have been a part of American society throughout the nation’s history. In the Great Depression of the 1930s many artists for the first time in US history began to address issues of human rights. The large number of poor, displaced and homeless people was one important focus. Artists were not only observers, but they actively found ways to influence society through exhibition and distribution of their work. During the decades following World War II artists shifted their energies elsewhere, but by the late 1970s with the rise of the modern era of mass homelessness many artists again began to focus on what was happening to poor people in our society. Structural changes in the American economy and a return to fiscally conservative ideology began a period of increased poverty and economic inequality. Over the following decades, the problems contributing to homelessness increased. By 2008, an estimated 3.5 million Americans lived without housing and homeless children in school exceeded 900,000 according to the US Department of Education.

This exhibition presents the work of artists who have sought to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness.

Listen to the curator Art Hazelwood’s comments:

Listen to Western Regional Advocacy Project director Paul Boden’s thoughts: