The Art of Collective Identity: How an Art from the Streets Program Fosters a Sense of Community Among the Homeless

Kristen Paige McCollum


The current paper explores the role that identities play in creating and maintaining a sense of community in an organization supporting homeless artists in the South. Couched in the social movements literature on collective identity, this study examines the ways individual identities contribute to an overall collective identity of artists and volunteers within the organization Art from the Streets (AFTS). Relying on organizational materials, face-to-face interviews, and participant observation conducted from August to December 2011, the current research finds that AFTS creates a space where homeless individuals can negotiate the stigmatized identities they experience on the streets and adopt a more empowering identity. In the process, the organization fosters a collective identity among all members. This paper adds to the existing social movements scholarship by examining how an empowering collective identity is formed among members with individual identities that are traditionally considered stigmatized in larger society.

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The JUE is a peer-reviewed online journal that publishes original ethnographic research by undergraduates working in a variety of disciplines. Submissions are welcomed. Contact the Editor, Karen McGarry.

ISSN 2369-8721