There were many great exhibits and performances at this weekend’s H Street Festival, but the most powerful exhibit was the Street Sense Art Bus. Street Sense has been in D.C. since 2003, with the mission of offering “economic opportunities to people experiencing homelessness through media that elevates voices.” The Art Bus uses art to illustrate some of the realities of homelessness.
Robert Williams, one of the Street Sense participants, gave me a tour of the inside of the bus.
The inside is covered with symbols of homelessness. Hung from the roof of the bus are rows of trashbags, needed to store possessions.
There is an upturned shopping cart used as a dining table. Note that there is a can of food, but no can opener available.
There is a small mock jail in the back of the bus, symbolizing the likelihood that homeless people can end up in jail for misdemeanors.
At the far back is a partially covered sign with a quietly powerful message.
Standing here in the doorway of the bus is Bardia Saeedi, the creator of the art concept of the bus. Saeedi is an artist and producer of participatory art, and is part of the Illumination Coalition, a global participatory art group.
He showed me a pair of large dice constructed for this exhibit, called Monopoly: Not a Game. The dice are blank, so no matter how many times you roll them, you never move to a home or are given any guidance on what to do.
The outside of the bus is painted white, set up as a canvas for people at the H Street festival to paint it with imaginary houses.
Find out more about Street Sense here. Street Sense is increasingly producing art and video in addition to the bi-weekly newsletter sold on the streets, and my tour guide Robert Williams is planning on making a film.