Hearts of Fire: Helping fight Homelessness Through Art and Music

Bob Ballard is a musician who lives in Ojai California.  He is the creator of a project called Hearts of Fire that is dedicated shifing the public perception of homeless people.  Several years ago while taking a program with Landmark Education he was struck by his personal reaction to being around homeless people.  He did not like how uncomforatble he was and determined to cross the divide.   Along the way he created a music video titled "Not Like Him":


This past year while participating in the power and contribution course he started "Hearts of Fire" a project dedicated to helping shift society's perception of homeless people through artistic self expression.  In the month of October Hearts of Fire will be visiting homeless shelters in Washington D.C.

Here is a story from the Ojai Valley News:

Sept 14, 2007

Ojai musician Bob Ballard is connecting with homeless individuals in partnership with Give Us Your Poor, an initiative of the University of Massachusetts-Boston.  Give Us Your Poor works to create public awareness, dispel myths and inspire action toward ending epidemic  homelessness in the United States, working to effect change at the policy level and through the contributions of volunteers at the corporate and individual levels.bobballard.jpg Having lived in Boston, Ballard developed the Hearts of Fire project after returning to that city to film his music video of “Not Like Him.”  Homeless people in Boston inspired the song, so  allard returned to capture the area on film. “This idea turned out to be much more than a video,” said Ballard. “It was a lifealtering experience.”  Ballard and the video crew began filming and listening to what the people living on the streets had to say. “Over the course of the next  two days, they took us deeply into their world. They accepted us as family and took us on a  journey that I will never forget,” Ballard said. “Under bridges, through the parks, behind buildings, in the alleys and under the roads of Boston we went, a homeless brigade leading us on.”  The love, devotion and attention displayed by his guides and the incredible stories they shared amazed Ballard. “The wall I had built between me and the homeless melted in a brilliant flash of love and brotherhood.” After the footage was shot, Ballard and his partners, videographer Crystal Counts and photographer and director Andrew Wildowsky, found they were transformed.

“The Hearts of Fire project is about shifting our perceptions of who homeless people are through their own artistic expression,” said Ballard. “The project is an opportunity for me and many others to begin a change in the existing paradigm called ‘homelessness.’ The project will provide homeless men, women and children the opportunity to be heard as the great human beings they are.” Ballard and his partners will be driving a mobile art and music studio to homeless shelters in Washington, D.C. and San Diego in October and November. Next year, the studio heads to Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Participants will produce paintings, drawings and other art for collection and future exhibit. Others will record their music, which will be reviewed for selection to be later recorded with celebrity artists.

Thanks to modern technology, the music studio will use laptop computers to run audio recording software. It will provide guitars, keyboards and microphones.  “Musicians will sign up on site and we will record their music throughout the day,” Ballard said.  “More of a challenge is the art component of the tour. We need to obtain and store a significant quality of art supplies and completed artwork as we move from site to site.  Organizing the art workshops and securing volunteer art teachers can be time-consuming as well. However, the art workshops will be the most universally accessible expression for most homeless people.”  Ballard and company plan to drive and live in the RV that will serve as the project’s studio. “We expect long days, setting up early in the morning and going until after dark at each location. Several shelters have asked for night as well as day art workshops because many homeless adults are not home from work until evening.”

The budget for Hearts of Fire is surprisingly small at $20,000 and project organizers are in the midst of raising the funds needed. Ballard will hold a benefit concert on Sept. Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Sound & Vision Learning Resource Center, 1016 W. Ojai Ave. Following a short presentation about the project by Ballard, local musicians will perform and refreshments will be served. The requested donation is $10.   “Because of the energy that emanates from Ojai  through the land, the water and the people, I believe that those of us who call this place home can be the source of good, of change and shifts in consciousness that impact the entire world,” said Ballard. “Consequently,  I am committed to bringing this  energy and life force to the homeless from the source that is Ojai.”  For more information or to make  a tax-deductible donation to this nonprofit organization, contact [email protected] or call (877) 827-2012. Donations may also  be sent to Give Us Your Poor/Hearts of Fire, 323 E. Matilija St., Suite 110- 251, Ojai, CA 93023. Contact Ballard locally by calling 933-9294.   Ojai Valley News  You can also visit the Hearts of Fire website.  

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