Cafe Art began in London in early 2012 with one local cafe and one art group run by a homelessness sector organisation. The opportunity was spotted by Michael, a volunteer with a St Mungo’s art group near King’s Cross, London. He could see lots of amazing art being created every week. However there was not enough wall space in the charity to hang it - much of the art was put away and not hung on the walls. An idea was born while in a local cafe. It didn’t have any art on the walls.
Cafe Art is run by Paul Ryan and Michael Wong. Café Art registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in November 2013, with all profits committed to building up the social enterprise. CICs were established in 2005 specifically for social enterprises where the profits will be reinvested in the business.
As well as connecting the artwork of artists affected by homelessness with local cafes, Café Art has exhibited in several organisations in London since it was established, including Allen & Overy, Christie’s, Citigroup, The Guardian, Ikea and Southwark Cathedral. Since November 2013 we have also been running a special international exchange of homeless artwork between major cities around the world. We add a new city to the mix each year - a simple message that homelessness is a worldwide problem, but done in a positive and inspiring way through art drawn of the city landscapes by the artists.
Every year around World Homeless Day (10th Oct), we provide free market stalls (through the generosity of Spitalfields Market E1) to the artists as work experience for a week. We also offer a unique solution to help businesses and Corporations meet their corporate social responsibility aims through our special art rental scheme.
What is unique about Cafe Art is that we try our very best to connect the buyer of a piece of art with the artist over a cup of coffee in the cafe where the art is hung. This is a great way for two complete strangers whose life paths are so different to meet to share their love of art and their stories. We aim to do this through all the 5 programmes that we offer.
Hence, there is a much deeper meaning behind Cafe Art. Not just celebrating the art and the hidden talent, but the human connection.
We are very grateful to the support from The Royal Photographic Society, especially the Director-General Dr Michael Pritchard who said: ‘The Society is pleased to lend its support to Cafe Art which has had such a positive impact in supporting and working with homeless people. It is well known that art and photography can help raise an individual’s confidence and sense of worth which can be as important as more tangible benefits. This competition will contribute to that as well as raising wider awareness of the problem of homelessness.'