Barbara Jensen is a poet, songwriter, and cultural artist engaged in studio and social practice. A social worker and addictions counselor by trade, for nearly 20 years Jensen has worked with people who are homeless, as a case manager and community program director.
“We spend years in art school, where we are taught to explore ourselves, but social practice is completely about the opposite thing. It’s about how to listen. It’s remaining engaged with the world in an active way.” — artist Pablo Helguera
Jensen is the founder of ArtSpe@k, a community art group for homeless adults utilizing principles of art therapy. Her philosophy:
Art is a language human beings have developed to express themselves, to communicate with each other, and with the sacred. As with any language, some people are more fluent, some less. Some people have incredible, natural facility – it is their native tongue. For most of us, it is something we can practice. Above all, each voice is unique, and therefore, inherently meaningful.
Her personal experience of poverty informs her artwork, both subject and media, as she intentionally uses found objects from the streets and low-cost materials to create her work. Her favorite finds – “street metal” – remind her of the unexpected beauty and resiliency of the homeless people she meets every day.
“My question to myself as an artist has always been, ‘How do I make something that engages my city—that creates art where people don’t expect to find to it? And how can we change what’s valued and how we value it?’” — artist Caledonia Dance Curry, aka Swoon, graffiti artist