Yuri’s Red Tent helps the homeless

0 Posted by - February 23, 2010 - Blog, Public art, Visual art

Yuri's Red Tent

Yuri Arajs, a Kelowna born artist who recently returned to Vancouver after a 30-year stint in Minneapolis, Minnesota, first heard about the Pivot Legal Society’s Red Tent campaign from his mother.

“I told myself I had to look it up,” explained Yuri in a conversation early Tuesday morning, just over a week in to Vancouver’s Olympic shenanigans which the Red Tent campaign was designed to correspond with.

The campaign centres around the use of red tents as symbols on the streets of Vancouver to draw attention to Canada’s homelessness crisis, allowing them to provide education to the public about the need for a funded national housing strategy and to pressure the government to take action on homelessness.

“So I read about the Red Tents, read about Pivot Legal, and started reading about the peole who work there… and those lawyers are rock stars,” Yuri stated. “They do great work, and for them to come up with the idea of this Red Tent campaign was absolutely inspiring.”

So inspiring that within four days of talking to his mom, Yuri had rented time at a screen printing studio and had already created the two colour prints that would become the basis of his art-meets-fundraising efforts to help raise money for the Red Tent campaign.

The Red Tent campaign. Photo by Jay Black.

Yuri created 125 prints in the studio, and has been selling them online for $25. The tent in the image is a two colour silk screen, tagged with a white cross done with a grease crayon, and each print is stamped with a rubber stamp in the top right.

“I was interested that there was no visual arts component to [the Red Tent campaign], the project itself is a visual art,” he mused. “It’s a live installation, it’s performance, it’s site specific, there’s all these things that it achieves. And I love that they’re doing it at the time that they are.” The time, of course, being the Olympic celebrations happening here in Vancouver, which many organizations have centered their campaigns around in an attempt to capture a global audience. Like many in Vancouver, Yuri questions whether the huge amount of money spent on celebrating our athletes is necessary in order to appreciate them, and wonders whether our priorities have become skewed, particularly when the province is dealing with such a massive poverty crisis.

Selling the prints as a fundraiser to help Pivot Legal Society and the Red Tent campaign make this crisis a priority is just a small gesture on his behalf. “We can do so many things with really a little amount of effort.”

“So much of what [I’m doing is about] putting art in front of people for an affordable price, and letting that turn into a larger donation,” said Yuri. “I’m very happy to say I sent a cheque to Pivot Legal for $500 last week.”

The next phase of his project is to raise enough money to buy $1000 worth of art supplies for artists living on the streets in vancouver and on the island.

Yuri’s red tent art can be purchased through his website for $25, and can be shipped anywhere in the US or Canada.

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