Artist shines light on homelessness

Cian Reinhardt

Jennifer Allen used her artistic talents to put a spotlight on homelessness during her most recent exhibit at the Limerick Public Library.

Her exhibition, Shine Out of Darkness, took place from October 9th to October 16th.

The title of her exhibit was very meaningful to Ms Allen, who believes that even though homelessness is overwhelming and isolating, there is still hope to finding a solution.

Jennifer Alan, artist. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

Jennifer Allen, artist. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

Ms Allen intentionally planned the dates of her exhibition to overlap with World Homeless Day on October 10th and Peter McVerry Trust Opening Doors Appeal which also took place that week.

Peter McVerry Trust is a charity established by Father Peter McVerry, which seeks to reduce homelessness and help those struggling with drug abuse.

As a self-taught artist, Ms Allen began drawing in childhood, and today specializes in detailed sketches with white pencils and black paper.

The majority of Ms Allen’s subjects focus on capturing emotion and life in motion.

She mainly draws her inspiration from photographs and finds the expressions in the faces of the elderly to be particularly emotive and thought-provoking.

“I want a face with a story,” Ms Allen said.

Homelessness is an issue that Ms Allen has been concerned with for a long time. Determined to help in her own way, she took the initiative to contact Peter McVerry Trust and pledged thirty percent of her exhibit’s proceeds to the charity.

Jennifer Alan, artist. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

Jennifer Allen, artist. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

Ms Allen sought out Peter McVerry Trust because she “admired” his on-the-ground approach to helping people experiencing homelessness and making a difference since the 1970’s.

Ms Allen stated in the past, homelessness was tied to drug addiction or poor life choices. Currently, people with good jobs who pay their rent every month are still threatened with eviction due to a lack of rent control.

People living in cars or those who are “Just About Managing”, known as JAM, are also forms of homelessness.

“Homelessness is not just one size, it comes in lots of different shapes and forms.”

According to the artist, poor government choices combined with unscrupulous vulture capitalists have created an “unstable” situation.

The artist said that 50% of people who are experiencing homelessness are 24 years or younger, and currently there are 180,000 vacant dwellings in Ireland.

“Something does not add up.”

She believes by helping those who are sleeping rough back on their feet, they can become productive members of society once again.

Jennifer Alan, artist. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

Jennifer Allen, artist. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

“It is a human right to have something safe, and secure, and have a place to call home.”

Ms Allen stated she loves the universal nature of emotions. Yet, she enjoys when viewers look at her works and interpret them in diverse ways.

For Ms Allen, the responses of the children were her favorite because they are so genuine and unfiltered.

The exhibition, Shine Out of the Darkness, at the Limerick Public Library was her first charity oriented exhibit and she would not pass up the opportunity to do it again.

She believes that having a creative outlet is key to living a healthy life and she encourages people to take their talents and help charities or those in need.

Ms Allen believes in the concept of paying it forward and encourages people to make a difference where they can. This could be contributing their time or talent or simply donating whatever is affordable, every donation makes a difference.

Shine Out of Darkness refers to Ms Allen’s medium of bringing out masterpieces using white pencils on a black background. However, it also symbolizes her belief that a solution to homelessness in Ireland is possible through hope, light, and action.

“Better to light the candle instead of cursing the darkness.”

Those interested in learning more about Jennifer Allen’s white pencil drawings can visit:

Donations for Peter McVerry Trust can be made at:

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