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Local artist inspired by life on streets

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Kevin Anderson spent nearly a decade sleeping in stairwells, bus shelters and back lanes.

Now, the formerly homeless man is using those locations as artistic inspiration.

In a project commissioned by The Red Road Lodge’s Studio 631 – an Urban Art Centre, the Ojibway artist revisited the alleys and abandoned lots in the Main Street area where he struggled to survive without a home for almost 10 years.

A photographer captured snippets of Anderson’s past street life, and the artist then re-envisioned the photos as pen-and-ink drawings.

Ten of Anderson’s original works will be featured at the EDGE Gallery at 611 Main St. in a display called STREET LIFE from Sept. 25 to 27.

Anderson said it was difficult to capture the images from his past without placing blame.

"I had to prepare myself for each one. I had to go back to the places and look at them again, sometimes four or six or eight times," Anderson said.

"I had to go back to certain places and remember what it was I was supposed to be drawing. For some of them, it took a while to figure out how I was going to put some images in a certain place."

When he thinks back to the past, there are many gaps that he can’t remember.

"A lot of it is blocked out. With my former memories, I’m missing years and months. It’s hard to explain. I have to try to think back. It must be buried there for a reason. I’ll just leave it there for the moment, I guess," he said.

"I can’t remember how I ended up on the street. It had to do with my past experiences. I was lost in identity because of the system, so I was kind of all screwed up. I had to completely rewire myself, and that took a long time."

Although Anderson was homeless, he said he was never hopeless. In fact, he believes he was always looking for help in some way.

He found that help through the art studio at Red Road Lodge. Executive director Bev Roberts met Anderson at the studio, where the homeless man would drop in to work on his art projects.

Last May, Roberts invited him to live at the lodge and pay his way by working on a street cleanup crew.

"He moved in and had a very unfortunate accident where he was knifed in the street," Roberts said.

"He ended up in the hospital and had a cancer diagnosis. He was never able to go back to work."

Since then, Anderson has undergone chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, and doctors are currently trying to build up his bone density.

Rising above the challenges, he continued creating artwork for his exhibit, funded by the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ CEO Sleep Out event.

STREET LIFE launches at 3 p.m. on Wed., Sept. 25 at the EDGE Gallery and concludes on Fri., Sept. 27 at 1 p.m.

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