To the students of Eastwood, Diane Vera is a wonderful art teacher, doing her best to help students express themselves. Outside of school, Ms. Vera is a grassroots humanitarian who tells the stories of those often overlooked: the homeless.
Ms. Vera’s contemporary silk-screen printing art project allowed students to help print the personal stories of the homeless in the form of images on t-shirts. The stories were also compiled and made into a book. She displayed both the book and the shirts in many places throughout El Paso, trying to serve as a channel for social change in the community.
"What the project entailed initially was creating care packages with community members, family and friends.” Vera said. "Then I met with these people and asked if they wanted to tell me their story."
Vera said that she is inspired to tell the stories of the homeless, to reveal that there's more to it than just people who made serious mistakes.
"In doing this project I wanted to find the stories behind the people," Vera said. "Not everyone is homeless because of bad choices."
Senior Alexa Bautista helped Ms. Vera set up her project at the YWCA, and said that she believes this project is a great way to help people understand what homeless people have been through.
"I feel this project is important because everyone has a story." Bautista said. "In order to truly understand someone you have to put yourself in their shoes."
Ms. Vera spoke with people from a variety of backgrounds to prove that this could happen to anyone.
"I interviewed people from all walks of life," Vera said. "For example there was a former teacher, several veterans, a student, a wife and mother, and even a former gang member."
One of the men interviewed, Aaron Stuckwisch, said that the biggest issue about being homeless is that no one tells you how isolated you'll feel.
"If anything, if you really want to make a difference, express how lonely homelessness is," Stuckwisch said, as quoted in the book. "I can get a cheeseburger right now. Drugs? Easy! I know all the connections, but it's loneliness that makes being homeless hard."
English teacher Irma Quaney, who helped with the project, said that she is very pleased with the project because Ms. Vera sees art as a medium for change.
"I'm very impressed with her," Quaney said. "She thinks about art not just as something that's beautiful, but as something that could teach us about others."
Ms.Vera's project was funded by the Caldo Collective, which is an organization for local El Paso artists. The organization collects a 15 dollar donation from people who attend the ceremony, and the money is granted to the artist who presents the best idea to bring change to the border.
Ms. Vera's art project, which can be found online at The Seed of Benevolence, has been displayed at La Galleria of Senecu, La Fe, and the YWCA.