Torres Community Shelter expresses creativity through art


Pat Macias, board president for The Museum of Northern California Art and art teacher at Torres Community Shelter. Photo credit: Carly Plemons

The sound of coarse bristles could be heard as Andy, an artist at the Torres Community Shelter, orchestrated waves of melting colors along the surface of his canvas. He cradled a splintered wooden paintbrush in his worn hands as he constructed the shadows of a Volkswagen that reminded him a lot of his own.

Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Torres Community Shelter is a time focused on immersing one’s self into paint and a love for creative expression. For around four years now, an hour-and-a-half art class takes place at the shelter hosted by Pat Macias, the board president for The Museum of Northern California Art.

“I don’t do a class where I teach them anything so much as just let them create,” Macias said.

Occasionally, there are times where the artists have the opportunity to make books, cards, decorate boxes and, during Christmas, decorate ornaments.

The turnout of these classes varies throughout every session. Sometimes there are six people and sometimes there are three. The time is used as an outlet for guests at the shelter to take some time to relax and focus on artistic creation.

Artwork of artists that attend the art class at the Torres Community Shelter. Photo credit: Carly Plemons

“I think one of the things I’ve found out is that people will say, ‘I wait for it every week because it’s so relaxing,’” Macias said.

The class is much needed time to not have to think about anything else. The attendees range from occasional artists to doodlers.

“I get artists who have been going to school for it, who are self-taught, but do a lot of it all the time,” Macias said. “And then I get people who just wanna come in and paint.”

Andy, an attendee who actually went to school for graphic design, created a series of automotive painting using acrylic paints.

Art series created by class attendee, Andy, using acrylic paints. Photo credit: Carly Plemons

“I always liked to draw as a kid and I’ve always liked cars, so I like to challenge myself,” Andy said. “I do landscape things, things out of the ordinary, like different mediums, acrylic paint, colored pencils.”

Through The Museum of Northern California Art, or MONCA, the art created by these artists at the Torres Community Shelter were featured and for sale about a year and a half ago. Half the proceeds went to the artists and the other half went to the museum.

The museum holds “pop-up” museums on Main Street throughout the month of April until it moves to a permanent location at the Veterans Memorial Hall on the Esplanade. When they move to this location, Macias anticipates seeing more exhibits featuring the works of artists at the shelter in the future.

Framed artwork made by guests at the Torres Community Shelter. Photo credit: Carly Plemons

The supplies are all donated or out-of-pocket since the shelter doesn’t fund the program.

Through the love of art, guests at the shelter are able to surround themselves in a creative, less stressful environment, free to let their imagination run wild.

“It’s kinda like utilizing what quiet time you have,” Andy said. “It’s using time to express yourself.”

Carly Plemons can be reached at [email protected] or @plemnz on Twitter.