Stella McGregor’s lecture on Monday reminded me of a similar program in St. Louis called City Faces. I had the pleasure of having Bob as a professor.
City Faces works with children, teenagers, and young adults living in public housing in inner St. Louis. Since the 1993, the program has been run by Bob Hansman, a professor in the architecture school at Washington University in St. Louis, whose goal is “to change the course of the children’s lives by offering art as one alternative to selling drugs and becoming involved in gangs, and to teach kids employable skills to better their situation and get them out of the projects. Most importantly, City Faces strives to become a stable component in their lives, supporting them emotionally and professionally.”
City Faces is now in its 17th year and continues to expand. City Faces began essentially as a drawing program with an open studio format, and provided an opportunity for local kids to escape street violence and grow through creativity.
Hansman is an incredible role model for the kids. He gives constructive attention and validates their good decisions. He is someone they trust, so much so that he testifies for them at court and goes to their parole hearings.
A relatively recent offshoot of the City Faces program is Faces in the Loop, a storefront on a main retail street in St. Louis called “The Loop”. In addition to selling their portraits of city faces, the storefront gives them the opportunity to learn the skills they need to successfully run a business.
I’m sure there are countless more examples of similar programs all over the country. It is inspiring and encouraging to realize that this can be done and can be done with great success through the persistence and dedication of one person.