Jason Leith, director of art at Saddleback Church, spoke to a group of students in the Community Life Lounge on March 12 as part of the College of Architecture, Visual Arts and Design speaker series.
Leith shared pieces of art with the audience, but he mainly focused on his project, “Sacred Streets,” which joins outreach and artwork by bringing art to impoverished areas.
Skid Row in Los Angeles was the most recent display site. The display consisted of 12 portraits Leith created of homeless people he met on the streets. However, they were not drawn on paper.
Instead, he utilized various objects such as cardboard, wood and even a chair to create the portraits.
The portraits were housed in a temporary structure that was also created with various materials. The structure included tent material, clothes, chainlink fencing, metal and newspapers.
Leith said Skid Row was not lacking resources such as food and clothing, but needed something deeper.
“What I did see a lack of was human relationship, human connection and beauty,” he said. “So the whole goal of ‘Sacred Streets’ was to bring dignity and beauty to these streets that were so deprived of these things.”
Leith emphasized that while he loves art, reaching out to people and sharing the love of God with them is the ultimate goal. He said he believes it is important for the artist to give more than receive.
Michael Barraza, sophomore graphic design major, was inspired by the words of Leith and “Sacred Streets.”
“When you’re actually doing the work for the people and not for yourself, it’s so much more powerful than anything else,” Barraza said.
Dirk Dallas, assistant professor of graphic design, was responsible for organizing this event within the CAVAD speaker series. Dallas has known Leith a little more than a year, and they worked together on a project this past summer in the Casa Blanca neighborhood of Riverside.
“Examples like this are hopefully inspiring to students because it’s inspiring to me,” Dallas said.
Leith, a Biola University alumnus, said he is not sure what the future holds, but one of his goals is to continue to create and use art to connect with people.
“I’d love to do it in different cities, and it’d be cool to start doing it internationally,” he said.
Leith is going to Berlin and Spain this summer and is interested to see what it is like to do this same project abroad.
“The people are really important to me, just as important to me as the artwork itself,” he said.
For more information about Jason Leith, his portraits and his vision for “Sacred Streets,” visit www.sacredstreets.org.