FILLING THE VOID: Homeless youth craft downtown art project - KMSP-TV

FILLING THE VOID: Homeless youth craft downtown art project

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Under the shadow of skyscrapers, there is an open door offering a path to possibilities. As the large piece of art continues to evolve, many say it is helping to change lives in the process.

"I'm trying to find my path," Shanice Mason explained. "Trying to figure out where I was going to go to school or work -- or do both. It was just a little complicated."

Mason is now on track thanks in part to YouthLink, a group that offers a framework to the future for homeless youth.

"The quicker we can get with them and get a plan, the more successful it's going to be," Bob Nelson, with YouthLink, told FOX 9 News. "Most of them are really good kids coming from a really bad situation."

About 2,400 young people walk through their door every year, YouthLink's support system includes a creative outlet which can be a crucial part of helping homeless youth discover themselves and the direction they want to take.

"We see exciting and radical growth and development because of peoples' creative processes all the time," Jeff Hnilicka, also with YouthLink, said.

With that in mind, artist Randy Walker brought his vision for "Filling the Void" to YouthLink and created a steel grid to serve as a solid foundation where any artist could weave imagination by hanging something, growing something or building something.

"I wanted to make a project that would change over time, that could be engaged and re-engaged," Walker explained. "Not just maintained, but actually take on new life."

The homeless youth are working on the very first part of the project, weaving colored fibers into the frame. Walker says the goal is simple: "To get as many people as possible to weave themselves into the sculpture."

For Walker, "Filling the Void" means closing the gap between permanent and temporary art. For the kids, the sculpture helps fill a void in their lives.

"I use my art as an outlet for when I'm frustrated or sad -- just to channel it, to get the energy out of me," Mason said.

The grid and the art that grows on it will serve as a creative outlet for years to come, and it also serves a sort of landmark or beacon to let the homeless youth know that hope, open hearts and help can be found just down the street.

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