Artist offers rare glimpse into eyes of the homeless

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When Anup Bhandari began his portraits of Newgate Mission’s clientele, he captured much more than their eyes, their ears, their noses, their smiles.

It’s a clear message reproduced in the cover of “The Faces of Newgate,” says the outreach’s director, Hollie Bruce. The pages of the book, portraits and handwritten testimonies of the subjects, illustrate it even more:

“I see you. I see you as a person.”

Unveiled Tuesday, the cover of the book – all proceeds benefit the mission – is a collage comprised of small portions of various portraits Bhandari painted in the midst of his ongoing art classes at the Longview facility. He’s been introducing art to Newgate’s visitors for years, drawing out their innate talents and giving them a new means of expressing themselves to a wider community.

“There’s so much emotion, I think, in every segment of this cover,” Bruce said. “It once again emphasizes the fact that everyone is so different and has such a unique story.

“Anup’s taken photographs of people with their portraits. The subjects have been so proud of the paintings and having that little bit of love shown to them.”

True to form, Bhandari has waived all proceeds from the new publication, filled with the Nepalese painter’s work and published with donor dollars. A Kilgore College graduate and longtime resident here, he’s just happy to see the stories of his friends and students reaching a wider audience.

“It’s a great feeling – it’s really happened,” Bhandari said this week. “I’ve been going there for eight years or more doing the art classes. Everyone I’ve met there I’ve become friends with.”

It’s important for him the book gives readers a chance to look into the eyes of the portrait subjects, people he’s met and come to love, and that it opens a window into their lives.

“Not everyone whose picture is in this book is homeless,” he emphasized. “Some of them come up there and spend time and help others.

In many cases, “They have some issues, but we still have to look at them as human beings. The stories are in their own handwriting – some are pretty sad, and powerful.”

Following this week’s unveiling during a Longview Art Walk, the book is available for pre-order at $40 per copy. There will be 1,000 copies printed in the first run of the books, and the pre-order sheet began to fill Tuesday evening in supporter Dan Sorey’s law firm on Tyler Street.

“I was the first donor. There was no persuading to do,” Sorey said, surrounded by artwork by Bhandari, Charlie Arnold and others. “Anup is fantastic. The project is perfect and exactly what those artists need. I was proud to be a part of it.

“I think it’s an opportunity for people to see something more than a homeless person. These are people with talents, who have a story. It shows that they truly are – people.”

Everyone goes through different phases in their lives, he added, highs and lows that may lead them to places like Newgate Mission.

“These are situations anybody could be in. When we see who they are, it just opens our minds to that.”

Bhandari credits Kristi Bogle-Sherman for spearheading the project, making a dream a reality.

“This was not possible without her help. We are grateful to so many people,” he added, “who volunteered their talents, advice and monetary donations to make this book possible.”

For her part, Bogle-Sherman said she, too, did not hesitate when Bhandari let her in on the idea and asked for her assistance and advice in bringing it to fruition. It was more than a year ago they got the ball rolling, summer when they pulled the trigger, and Bogle-Sherman tackled the logistics of the books and began organizing the donations that made them possible.

“I think the book has the potential to accomplish so many things,” she said. “Raising awareness – Longview isn’t the only community that has a homeless population, a population living on the fringe, able to make it because of some of the services they’re able to get at Newgate. We don’t have a unique struggle here, and I think the book can raise awareness of souls in communities that we sometimes don’t see.

“I think it can raise funds for Newgate so we can continue funding these great services. Finally, as an art appreciator, Anup is a world-class artist, so compiling a book of his work will be a treat for any art-lover.”

The first run of books will be printed in the next couple of weeks, Bogle-Sherman noted, with delivery – hopefully – in time for the holidays or, perhaps, the first week of January.

Copies of “The Faces of Newgate” can be reserved at the mission, 207 S. Mobberly Ave. in Longview, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. Cash or check is preferred.

“I think it does a lot for Newgate specifically to show once again that everyone has a unique story. Not everyone we serve is homeless,” Bruce added. “A lot of times as a society we tend to make assumptions of groups of people. I think this just reminds us that we are all brothers and sisters. Taking some time out of your day to show some love, some care to someone who’s just a little different from you is one of the most important things we can do.

“Our time is one of our most valuable assets. To give a little bit of one’s time to someone they don’t know, who can’t do anything for them, it’s a beautiful act. I think this book reminds people of important acts of kindness like that.”

For more information, call 903-757-6146.

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