Of all the projects I’ve become associated with in recent months, there’s one that has a particular resonance for me and a relevance for this blog and its mission of helping disadvantaged populations get a leg up in the world.
Even as I write this, my friend Willie Baronet is in the middle of a remarkable journey, traveling across America to raise awareness of homelessness.
As the Dallas Observer wrote recently, Willie is an “artist who wears his heart on his sleeve.” He’s also an advertising professor at Southern Methodist University.
More than 20 years ago, he had this idea to buy and collect the signs that homeless people held on the side of roads. He eventually started turning the signs into art as a way to raise awareness of the crisis in homelessness. The story was chronicled last year by D Magazine’s Michael J. Mooney. I recommend you take a look at it.
As Mooney wrote, one thing led to another and the signs took an ever-larger role in Willie’s life, “signposts on his own journey of self-discovery.” Wrote Mooney:
“He doesn’t know the answers to the questions he’s raising—or even if answers exist. He just knows it makes him feel good to do what he does. He’s enamored with the signs. He can’t stop. As he turns each sign, examining and photographing it, thinking about the effect it might have on people.”
An Art Project Turns Into a Film Project
Willie made speaking engagements about the signs, including a TEDx talk, and he created art installations that raised awareness. He’s also making a documentary film and writing a book. That’s where my involvement comes in.
I’m proud to be associated with Willie’s current project, titled “We Are All Homeless.” The project, successfully funded in part through the crowdsourcing site indiegogo.com, currently has Willie on a coast-to-coast trip. His goal: “To buy as many signs and connect with as many homeless people as I can.”
When he’s finished, Willie plans to produce not only a documentary film of his experience, but also a book, with proceeds benefiting the Housing Crisis Center in Dallas and, specifically, homeless veterans.
Willie’s trip started July 1 in Seattle (read a story about that here) and is set to wrap up July 31 in New York City. He and a videographer are stopping in 22 cities in all. You can follow the whole journey on his blog.
I want to wish my friend safe travels on the rest of his trip and urge readers to visit his indiegogo site and get involved if you are moved to do so. Godspeed, Willie!