Humble Beauty: Skid Row Artists

DVD Release: January 13, 2013
Humble Beauty: Skid Row Artists


This is a powerful story about how art saved the lives of a group of talented homeless and indigent men and women who, despite a daily struggle for survival, create art in the worst area of Los Angeles known as Skid Row. It’s also about the ubiquity of art in human life. People strive to make art, no matter how humble the circumstances, and in return art changes their lives.

Over a four year period, HUMBLE BEAUTY follows the lives and progress of several artists from LA’s
Skid Row, reported to be the largest concentration of homeless in the United States, the Homeless Capital of America. Skid Row is a shock when you encounter it and the film’s first-person narration and gritty photography conveys that experience to viewers. Some artists find their art supplies in garbage cans and dumpsters. They draw on old paper bags. Many have joined art workshops led by dedicated artist-social workers and are given paint, canvases, frames, easels and the technical, creative and supportive guidance to create remarkable, often therapeutic, works of art. Many of these artists have shown and sold their work in downtown LA galleries.

Art changed their lives dramatically. The process of making art has helped many find their true identities. One woman told us that coming to the Workshop is the only reason she has for getting up in the morning. A directionless hustler has become a known, respected painter and community leader. A shy immigrant who creates, in classic primitive style, riotously colorful scenes from his childhood in a tiny Mexican village has suffered a major setback – he’s been admitted to art school at the University of California, Berkeley and awarded a scholarship but can’t attend due to his immigration status. One artist was a 12-year old runaway from an Indian Reservation in 1941 and has been on the streets of Skid Row ever since.

Audiences have found the program empowering and inspirational. Several viewers have said they will never view a homeless person in the same way again. HUMBLE BEAUTY has given voices and faces to homeless artists who are overflowing with intelligence, humor and creativity. Their stunning artwork speaks for itself.

There are many ways to get to Skid Row and the redemptive power of art can sometimes point the way out.

Dove Review

This is an extraordinary and original movie! It shows the creative powers of various “Skid Row” artists that are homeless, living in Los Angeles. Their work is impressive. Lillian Abel Calamari, the Founder and Director of Skid Row Art Workshop, shares insights into the lives of the artists and how they are self-taught. We also learn that the workshop was created so that artists could meet other artists and create their art.

We learn that the artists range from average to great ability. We meet several of them in this wonderful DVD including Manuel Compito, formerly in prison for armed robbery for five a half years. He shares that he watched a lot of artists in prison and learned various techniques. He loves painting the Lakers’ basketball players but Calamari constantly encourages him to study the masters and not just paint celebrities. We meet Barbara Aduwa, a former Metro bus driver that was injured, lost her income, and came to Skid Row and began to paint. Angry at first, she now makes the most of her situation. “It is a therapy for people,” she says in the documentary.

An artist named Magdulena says coming to the workshop helps her feel as if she belongs. One man states that some believe all homeless people have brought their situations on themselves but in certain cases catastrophes took place and people were left down and out. Some of them now work and sell their paintings, hoping for a brighter future. In an interesting scene one artist is shown painting scenery based on his happy childhood including a farm that he grew up in. He holds on to hope filled memories. “It is an outlet” states one man. Another says he keeps the golden rule in mind while working and dealing with others. Another nice scene in the documentary features several artists going on a field trip to an art museum.

Lillian’s husband, Leonard Kelly-Young, an actor, states, “We love what we’re doing.” It certainly shows in these artists and in Lillian and Leonard. “Humble Beauty: Skid Row Artists” has earned five Doves from us and our Dove Seal for ages twelve plus. It is a great watch.

Content Description

Faith: None
Violence: None
Sex: A nude man and woman in a statue are embracing.
Language: M/G-1; H-2 (One seen on paper).
Violence: None
Drugs: Smoking in a few scenes; an artist's work features a man smoking; talk of previous drug use by some artists; a man says he is glad artists are creating and not smoking crack; a comment about bottles of drugs and drinking; a dope house comment.
Nudity: Rear nudity that is not suggestive; naturalistic nudity in art including breasts and a statue that features a nude woman and man in love and embracing; cleavage; child seen in underwear; a woman's rear in art is seen as she is swimming; woman's thigh seen in art work as she wears a short dress.
Other: Some people featured have tattoos; a comment about Van Gogh having killed himself; people seen living on streets; police arrest some on streets (as seen in photos).


Company: Humble Productions
Writer: Letitia Popa Schwartz & Judith Vogelsang
Director: Letitia Popa Schwartz & Judith Vogelsang
Producer: Letitia Popa Schwartz & Judith Vogelsang
Genre: Documentary
Runtime: 56 min.
Reviewer: Edwin L Carpenter