Arts sale provides homeless women with an opportunity

Norma Hathaway has a cheerful energy as she describes the handmade art that is produced and sold by members of Ocean Park Community Center's Daybreak Designs program. Daybreak Designs is a business and artists' collective, designed to help current and formerly homeless women in the Santa Monica area. Hathaway is a painter and has been involved with Daybreak since 2006. Growing up in Brazil, she says her parents did not encourage participation in the arts, and she didn’t begin painting until she was fifty-five years old. Due to her time restraints, Hathaway's story was cut short, and her personal background is left a bit vague.

Hathaway is just one of about thirty female members of the program, many of whom will have their artistry on display April 27 - 28 at the annual Daybreak Designs spring sale. At 1751 Cloverfield Ave., the OPCC hosts five annual sales for Daybreak, as well as managing a store that is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

An emphasis on art evolved out of the OPCC's daily arts programs, when staff and guest instructors realized that some of the women had a lot of artistic talent. Project Manager, Amy Turk explains that there is a lot of therapeutic value in doing art, and the group projects help bring the women together.

“A lot of the women [at Daybreak] have potential, it just takes time to realize it.“ says Hathaway. Seven-year member, Britney Thompson, 28, has been drawing since junior high, she requires a creative space to work, and Daybreak provides that for her.

At the sale you will find a wide variety of handcrafted items and tasty treats. On display at the store are intricate beaded and wire jewelry, knit items, paintings and small sculptures. Most items are priced between five and fifty dollars, and all of the items go through a quality assurance process, where a committee of member artists inspect and set prices before the items are approved for sale.

As a business, Daybreak is completely member-run, with the individual artists making all business decisions and collecting 70% of the profits on sales of their work- the other thirty percent goes back into the program's infrastructure and towards materials, according to Turk. “We do well financially, but empowering women and giving them a new skill helps them realize that they have more to offer society,” says Turk.

The Daybreak program has been in operation since 1987 and was started to help homeless women with their disabilities. According to the OPCC website, the program has evolved into a full service shelter, housing up to 20 mentally ill homeless women. According to Turk, the OPCC has a 95 percent retention rate for those placed into housing, providing therapy, medical care and drug counseling, the program ranks amongst the highest in the country.

If you are looking for a handmade gift or a unique piece of jewelry, check out the ladies at Daybreak Designs this weekend. Not only may you come away with something beautiful, you will be providing hope and financial support for these women.

CultureA+E EditorComment