Epoch Arts responds to homelessness

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
East Hampton - posted Mon., Apr. 18, 2011
Sarah Argens, Brianna Snyder and Reanna Holmes work on a scene at Epoch Arts. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Sarah Argens, Brianna Snyder and Reanna Holmes work on a scene at Epoch Arts. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

“I’m just trying to follow what my dad taught,” said Elizabeth Namen, founder and artistic director of Epoch Arts. She described how, when she was a child, she and her father would travel to New York to give money to the homeless, trying to help them in any way that they could, without concern for what they might do with the money, and without blame for their situation. This philosophy of helping those in need without bias or judgment has become one of the core principles guiding the work of Epoch Arts.

“Hidden In Plain Sight: An Arts Response to Homelessness” is a multimedia production consisting of film, music, theater, visual art, poetry and dance that reflects the individual performers’ feelings and sense of the impact of homelessness on the individual and society, all while conveying a sense of hopefulness for a solution. As with previous Arts Responses, everything is created, written and performed by students and members of the various Epoch groups, under the guidance of Namen and her staff. 

One piece relates the tale of a man who lost his job and a working car, leaving him with nothing, while another confronts the issue of getting seriously ill without health insurance. A two-sided collage presents a view of homelessness on one side, with visions of hope on the other.

“They [the artists] all respond to this crisis in their own way,” said Namen. 

A key point to Namen and the performers is that that the homeless should not be feared and shunned.

“It’s not always people who made bad decisions,” like throwing away their money and possessions to gambling or drugs, said Namen. “Sometimes it’s just the lot that you’re given.”

“People take things they have for granted, and they really shouldn’t,” said Virginia Scovill, a member of the Breaking Silences group at Epoch who was working on a piece with several other group members.

While homelessness is not a problem that is typically associated with nor discussed in small towns like East Hampton, nearly 700,000 people across the country are affected, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. And it’s not unknown in this area, according to Namen.

“I know kids that are living in foreclosed, abandoned buildings in East Hampton right now,” she said, adding that the point of this, as well as all of the other Arts Responses, is to inform. “To wake people up,” she said.

“I think it’s a great topic,” said Saige Lange, another Breaking Silences member.

“No one really thinks about it [homelessness].  We don’t really think about how difficult it is for them. But now I’m thinking about it all the time,” she said.

For the Arts Response, which will be presented Saturday, April 23, at 7 p.m. ($5 admission), Epoch is working together with Kidz Kare (www.kidzkare.org), a charitable group founded by kids, for kids, which collects clothes and other items for homeless children. 

Epoch Arts, at 27 Skinner St., is a designated drop-off point for donations. Epoch student artwork will also be for sale at the Arts Response, with proceeds going to Kidz Kare. For more information, visit the website www.epocharts.org.

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