There is a gentle flood of gallery lights targeting the walls at Bokeh Gallery. Live music throbs through the doorway leading to the patio. Just outside this room filled with moving black-and-white photographs showcasing the stories of our nation’s homeless, a figure gestures against the backdrop of a whitewashed brick wall.
One gloved hand grasps a can of spray paint. The other adjusts and readjusts stencils and props, deftly positioning them against the body of a canvas. One light bows to frame his work; another points at him, casting a dark shadow that flickers against the wall to match his movements.
He is surrounded by onlookers. Across the alleyway, a cluster of hungry patrons stand at the window of Sandra Dee’s Creole Kitchen, a food truck serving delicious Louisiana fare. They order their preference, then turn to watch the artist at his work.
His name is Anthony. He was brought here by a stranger (the kind who doesn’t stay a stranger very long). Best we can tell, she met Anthony not too long ago, homeless on the streets - got to know his name, and his story. Upon viewing the I Have A Name Project’s Art and Advocacy exhibit on display here at the monorchid, she made a point of contacting its creator, Jon Linton.
This unexpected confluence of occurrences leads us to where we are tonight: standing in the alleyway just outside the monorchid, surveying the throng of guests moving through the AZ Share That You Care Vendor Market, planned specifically to support Jon’s I Have A Name Project.
The I Have A Name Project seeks to increase awareness of this nation’s homeless, the all-too-easily-overlooked. Jon founded the I Have A Name Project to remind us that, despite the deafening minutia of our own predominantly-comfortable existences, there are thousands of others telling different stories - thousands of others whom many of us breeze past every day.
Every one of these cardboard-signs-on-a-corner has a name. Every one of them has a story. It is interesting to find that many of these stories are not too far distant from our own. Jon has worked tirelessly to promote this awareness, this purposeful sense of the Other, this compassion.
Tonight’s event, including dozens of local vendors, an outstanding musician, and two of our favorite food trucks (Waffle Love and Sandra Dee’s Creole Kitchen), hosted by the monorchid and planned by Pineapple Triangle bears witness to the scope of Jon’s influence.
Each of these vendors is here with an understanding of our purpose. Each visitor has contributed either $5 or 5 hygienic products for their entry, with the understanding that 100% of all proceeds goes directly to support the vision of the I Have A Name Project.
Which brings us back to Anthony - a street artist without a home. He is the flesh-and-blood heart of what Jon’s photos represent. Already, he has made enough money off tonight’s artwork to land him a comfortable bed at a nearby hotel room.
I can hear Anthony tell Jon that this has been the best night of his life. Later, Sandra Dee informs me that she knows Anthony well, and feeds him any chance she gets.
And this is what it’s got to be about: finding that moment of connection with some thing outside ourselves. We at the monorchid couldn’t be prouder. We couldn’t be luckier, either.
If you were here to visit us tonight - THANK you. If you were one of the many here to help us pull this off - thank YOU especially.
A very special thanks goes out to Maggie with Pineapple Triangle for organizing this event, to each of our beautiful vendors, to the food trucks, and of course to Jon Linton.
We can’t wait to see you all again here very soon.