Scene 5: Art Viewing


On Friday, December 4, our team concluded the week-long art programme with an art viewing event.  The art programme allowed street people to express themselves creatively, and the viewing event brought many people from the local community into Service Dining Rooms, helping to build community.

Cast of characters

WPI SDR Team is our IQP team consisting of four students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI): Aaron McGinnis, Briana Rodriguez, Drew DeRubeis, and Liz Desjardins.

Ricky, the programme Manager of SDR, who serves as our liaison, oversees much of the daily operations of SDR and facilitates programmes for guests.

Jessie is an employee of Khulisa Social Solutions, a non-profit organization geared toward helping street people in Cape Town. She is also the liaison for the Khulisa team, but has been overseeing aspects of our project.

Gideon is a past co-researcher that now works as a manager of the Streetscapes participants. Among his many abilities, he has artistic skills that proved useful to the art portion of the project.

Tessa is our co-researcher that has great knowledge of the street and receives considerable respect from the street community.

Larry, a member of the Streetscapes pilot programme, is an aspiring artist and has been on the street for 15 years.

Juanita is a co-researcher of the Khulisa team who has been very active in the art aspect of our project.

Edgar is another of our co-researchers. He is very excited about the art programme as well as the music. His positivity and energetic demeanor are contagious.

Nelson is a staff member who has many roles to ensure efficient, daily operation of SDR, including morning set-up, opening and locking entrances, and handy-man work.

Greg is the operations manager of SDR.

Streetscapes participants are clients of SDR that are part of a pilot programme, known as Streetscapes.

Kiersten is a student from the Cape Town School of Photography who has been taking photographs for the street community profiles.

Sharron, Ricky’s wife, is a personal counselor and also helps during the daily operations of SDR.


In the dining room closest to the front entrance, some of the artwork created by participants sat on tables and profiles of guests of SDR hung on the walls. Additional art pieces gave life to the walls surrounding both dining rooms. Cookies, cupcakes, and beverages were neatly placed on the counter where lunch is usually served. Streetscapes participants and a few other guests of SDR were enjoying the sweets and sitting on the benches as the first visitors entered SDR.


It was 1:55 pm on Friday December 4th, just minutes before the start of the art viewing event that the SDR community had been anxiously waiting for since the beginning of November. The front doors were wide open, and greeters eagerly stood on the sidewalk.

As we waited for visitors to arrive, a group crowded around a laptop looking at the slideshow of pictures taken over the last few weeks by one another and Kiersten, laughing over the memories and pointing to one another when they were featured on the screen.

Minutes after the first visitors arrived at SDR, there was a buzz around the room as members of the city, peers from the WPI Cape Town Project Centre, social workers, friends, artists and others socialized while observing the artwork. A member of the Streetscapes programme weaved around the room trying to capture it all on camera.

By 2:40 pm everything was in full swing. At the front dining room, a WPI peer held back tears as she read some of the personal stories and experiences documented by Tessa. By the refreshments in the other dining room, Juanita started up a conversation with a woman from a local business and excitedly took her over to show off some of her work, ending the encounter with a hug. In the back corner, Larry sat shirtless as others created pieces of art on his arms and back with paint. While he decorated others, a local artist struck up a conversation and took pictures.

Lenny used body paint to create a collaborative artwork, where one would have to paint on him to have him on him or her.

Lenny used body paint to create a collaborative artwork, where one would have to paint on him in order to have him paint on him or her.

Back at the front of the room, Sharron, Ricky’s wife, was pouring more cups of juice and refilling the refreshment platters as she looked around the room with a delighted smile across her face. Outside, the greeters were joined by a few more people as they encouraged everyone who walked by to come to the event.

A Streetscapes participant welcomed visitors as they entered the building.

A Streetscapes participant welcomed visitors as they entered the building.

Back inside, Edgar, in his crisp blue shirt, led a few of his friends around the dining rooms, showing them the many pieces he created for the event. Off to the side, Gideon was talking to a local artist who had fallen in love with one of his pieces. He gave Gideon his business card and said he wanted to discuss the possibility of making the piece into a postcard.

Gideon, a past co-researcher, networks at the art viewing.

Gideon, a past co-researcher, networks at the art viewing.

Connections were forming as conversations happened all around the room. A WPI peer was bonding with a Streetscapes member over a love of soccer and girls. Another group was chatting about the pictures that passed in front of them on the slideshow.

The refreshments began to run out and the buzz began to fade. As a content feeling filled the room, we began to cleanup. Jesse said goodbye and thanked the last group of visitors, Nelson helped clean up the kitchen, and Drew and Aaron reflected on the event with Greg. Greg was pleased with how the event turned out and explained that a social worker, who hadn’t been to SDR in over a year, came up to him before they left and stated how she had not seen SDR look so welcoming or this full of energy.


Prior to the event, we worried that not enough people would show up, and the people who worked all week on their art would be disappointed. Thankfully, there was a wonderful turnout generating much joy across the room. People were attracted to the interior space, and they enjoyed the interactions they had with different street community members and other viewers. SDR was a lively mix of both guests and people from around the city, and new connections were formed between them. With light music playing in the background and donated refreshments made available, this viewing was truly a special event for SDR to hold because it depicted the space as something much deeper than a soup kitchen.