Colours of Resilience: a passion project helping the homeless

Joelle Brassard
By Joelle Brassard December 1, 2023 12:13

Colours of Resilience: a passion project helping the homeless

Photo of exhibition by Emma Carosella.

By Joelle Brassard 

Known to the public as Batoolio, she is a 24-year-old artist and activist that has launched a passion project which donates art supplies to homeless artists and displays their artwork in gallery style exhibitions. 

Batoolio is an entirely self-taught artist, who used art as an outlet for her mental health after making the decision to drop out of university to pursue artistic expression and work with marginalized communities. After posting her work online she gained a following which launched her career as an artist. 

“Colours of resilience was a passion project that I came up with to mend my two passions of working with marginalized communities and also artistic expression,” said Batoolio. “Now I see it as a way to uplift talent that would otherwise go unseen.” 

The goal of this program is to share equal opportunity for all, especially in the art community. 

“I think it’s not fair that often if you’re born into a position of privilege, especially in the art community as it’s hard to break into, you have a way easier time than someone who’s on the streets,” said Batoolio. “My goal with this project is to take the responsibility of helping people break into the art world and allowing them to navigate it themselves once they’re in it.” 

The project’s first exhibit launched in August 2023 and was the first of its kind in our city. The exhibit was made possible with funding from the Arts Cultural Heritage Fund grant. 

Most of the art made through this program was done with donated materials from the grant money but they also took art that was made through acquired materials by the artist. 

“We also hosted some workshops at Windsor Youth Centre, H4 and the Welcome Centre and throughout our time hosting the workshops we kept our eye out for any artist that had their own art that they were coming in with,” said Batoolio.  

Through these workshops, Batoolio was able to discover a lot of artists who already had pieces made. 

“A lot of the pieces that were sold during the exhibit were done by Anne Reno and we had seen her with these amazing pieces for months before the exhibit,” said Batoolio. “Through the grant money we were able to provide her with more sketchbooks and pencils and paint which was really cool and we were able to give her different mediums to explore with.” 

The program offers connection and community to artists who might otherwise have difficulty breaking into this space.  

“The art community can be hard to navigate because I feel like there’s so many moving parts and even as someone who isn’t actively experiencing homelessness or addiction, I still have a lot of trouble maintaining and facilitating connections that will help my artistic career,” said Batoolio. “I found that through this project it’s almost as if we have our own little community that people can infiltrate if they like and connect with really talented artist.”  

Batoolio expressed that homelessness is not a “blanket identity” and it’s important to remember that it can happen to anyone, and you should take that and try to see yourself within the artist’s work. 

Art displayed at the Colours of Resilience exhibition. Photo by Emma Carosella.

Social media coordinator Emma Carosella said her favourite part of being involved was being able to see the positive impact the program has on the community. 

“We’ve seen the success of the project right in front of our eyes,” said Carosella. “Our first exhibition raised almost $3,000, which went entirely back to the artists.” 

Carosella said the group’s main inspiration for starting the program was artist Ann Reno. 

“Batoolio was inspired to start this project because of Reno, who had been accessing services and her only source of income was selling her art for $20 a piece,” said Carosella. “Her pieces had the most frequent and highest bids, which encouraged her to collect social assistance and start planning her career.” 

Artists in the program are not only being paid for their work but also inspired to continue to pursue their dreams. Carosella said she believes the most important part of this program is how it uplifts artists and gives them chances to succeed. 

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned from this project is  there is such a stigma surrounding people who experience homelessness,” said Carosella. “I never thought that wanting everyone to have food, water and equal opportunities was a controversial take.”  

Carosella wants to ensure that no one is forgotten about based solely on their living situation, mental health or addictions.  

“Every single person has value,” said Carosella. “As a community, it’s our responsibility to take care of each other.” 

Ash Hart, an artist who participated in the project, said the exhibit made her feel empowered as a homeless person. 

“I wanted to thank everyone for making me feel so special and that’s something I can carry with me forever,” said Hart. “Being put in a gallery and being in the Windsor Star is something I will cherish forever.” 

Hart believes it’s important to support other artists and programs like this to further empower local art. 

“We should all be supporting each other as artists because how else are we getting publicity?” said Hart. “We should be supporting each other to gain opportunities to meet new people, make connections with other artists and maybe use that to create something.” 

Ash Hart being interviewed about Colours of Resilience at the exhibition. Photo by Batoolio.

Volunteer and workshop leader at Windsor Youth Centre Meaghan Sweeney, said it was an honor to encourage these artists to create and was constantly amazed by the art being made. 

“It was a pleasure to get to know new people, I loved hearing their stories and ideas,” said Sweeney. “It was also great to see the pride on the artists’ faces when they saw their artwork hung on the gallery walls. I was very happy for them.” 

Sweeney said through working with Colours of Resilience she was able to help the artists cultivate more confidence in themselves and their work. 

“These kinds of programs are a direct, humanizing and positive way to know more about the actual community of people who are experiencing homelessness,” said Sweeney. “They are left out of the decisions and discussions that directly affect their lives. In contrast, this program allowed them the power to control what’s shared and how.” 

Sweeney’s hope for this program is to create a ripple effect through the community that inspires action for years to come. 

An attendee of the first exhibit, another local artist known as Sav, said attending the show was an amazing experience.  

“The show itself was super cool because I got to see so many cool artists that were unknown to me,” said Sav. “It’s truly amazing how much talent is out there.”  

Sav’s favourite part of the exhibit was being surrounded by “like-minded creatives”. “Meeting different artists and seeing their show come to life was amazing.” said Sav. 

Colours of Resilience is actively seeking out volunteers who are willing to donate their time to the program. 

“We are currently looking for workshop volunteers and financial volunteers to help us with budgeting,” said Batoolio. “You can find the form to apply to be a volunteer in our Instagram bio. To participate as an artist, you just have to be a person who is actively seeking shelter services” 

Overall, Colours of Resilience is an important program to our community that prospers inclusivity, equality and creativity. For more information on the program or donating your time, you can visit the project’s Instagram page @Colours_of.Resilience.  

Joelle Brassard
By Joelle Brassard December 1, 2023 12:13

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