A colorful painting of Latin American women hangs in a gallery.
credit: Angie Whitehurst

Toward the end of last year, I visited the Inter-American Development Bank staff gallery. It was an eye-opening surprise. The gallery was filled with beautiful hand-carved furniture and artwork. This was not the usual show.

What made it unique, special and invaluable to our community is that all the furniture, boxes, sculpture, glassware, and hand-woven garments were produced by artisans in South America. They produce the products to be sold via a store in Baltimore, Maryland. The artisans all come from poor villages which were isolated, disconnected and left to wallow. Yet, all these profits now go back to the artisans, their families and their communities.

An Italian priest named Father Ugo De Censi founded the program by bringing together volunteers and village residents to develop skills, market them and become self-sufficient. They developed housing, hospitals, schools and workshops. It begs to wonder why we cannot do that here in the United States. We should have no unsheltered, unhoused, displaced residents and citizens.

The exhibit was proof to me of what can be done with a moral ethos, action by individuals and support from both the public and private sectors. If our Latin American neighbors can do it, so can we. And we should. Like the old cliché says, “find a niche and fill it!”

Angie Whitehurst is an artist and vendor for Street Sense.