As Kingston’s housing crisis becomes increasingly severe, Kingston Hidden Artist Collective (KHAC) was formed to support local artists who are unhoused or in disadvantaged situations.
The Journal spoke with KHAC founder Ali Sheikh, Eng ‘20, Mara Fraser, head of operations, and graphic designer Arhum Chaudhary, Eng ‘21.
“What really spoke to me about this cause, [since] I’ve always really liked art and felt very passionate it, was the fact that these people are in such disadvantaged situations and they’re still producing art,” Chaudhary said. “It means that much to them, and they prioritize [making art].”
The collective was founded last August after Sheikh experienced downtown Kingston’s unhoused population in a new way.
“I would always run into some of the artists downtown, [who] we have in our collective now, and would buy art from them,” he said. “I was really surprised that they were able to make a one-time sale of $20 on something that they spent hours and hours [making].”
These experiences inspired Sheikh to create a platform for these artists where they could generate income from their skills.
“All they needed was a marketing platform,” he said. “It was just about bringing opportunities to already talented people and kind of putting them on the same playing field as us.”
The name “Hidden Artist Collective” was inspired by the community of local artists who are often overlooked by society and are not able to advertise themselves.
“[These artists] were there, but they were just hidden,” Sheikh said.
“They were producing art and selling it, but no one knew about them because [these artists] didn’t have the marketing behind them to really promote their work. [The collective is trying to] bring all those hidden people together. They’re already producing work, and we want to show everyone.”
Five artists are currently involved in KHAC: Skott, Paul, David, Jenna, and Adam.
They all use different media in their pieces, such as pencil, pencil crayon, marker, and paints. Much of their inspiration is rooted in the past—themes range from childhood to finding sobriety.
“Each artist has their own distinct style,” Sheikh said. “It’s all about their experiences.”
KHAC hopes in helping artists generate income they will then have the monetary freedom to reinvest in their art or make purchases necessary for their lives—like Skott, who has used his earnings to buy a tent, a camping stove, and a guitar to busk downtown.
“I get a lot of gratification handing them the money that they’ve made themselves,” Fraser said. “They feel like they’ve earned it themselves—that affirmation that they experience is really magical.”
Some of the artists’ pieces were on display at The Juniper Café in December. They’re now working toward their next exhibit with Kingston’s Skeleton Park Arts Festival in The Elm Café.
Those interested in purchasing art from KHAC can visit their website or Instagram with free delivery within Kingston.
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