This piece of socially responsible street art was created by an Australian artist named Meek. He stenciled this powerful image on a wall and while technically illegal, it has an important message. Giving a homeless person some spare change can help them in the short term by providing some food, or even cause harm if the person buys drugs with the money. The artist’s point is that fundamental political and social change is necessary to solve this problem. During the recession, homelessness is only getting worse with the lack of jobs and high foreclosure rate. Without concerted efforts by governments and private organizations, millions of people around the world will continue to live day to day without adequate housing.
The style of this work is very reminiscent of Banksy, one of the more famous street artists. It depicts a black and white silhouette of a homeless man who appears to be begging for money. He is holding a sign in red typeface reading, “Keep your coins, I want change.” This short, effective statement is so memorable and stirring because it clashes with what one would expect to see on a sign held by a homeless person. Meek’s street art takes an all-too-familiar image and turns it on its head in order to make a larger point. His clever use of words – taking advantage of the double meaning of “change” makes the audience think about a problem they surely know about but may ignore.
The image has been reproduced many times for use in anti-homelessness campaigns in Australia, the United States, and the UK. For example, the Human Rights Resource Center in Australia used this image on t-shirts which were part of an initiative to reform government policies regarding the homeless.
Street artists distinguish themselves from mere graffiti taggers with their carefully thought out and executed works of art. Street art often has a progressive message or at least is aesthetically interesting. However, police and other people may mistake street art for graffiti and try to forcibly stop street artists from doing their work. In Meek’s own words, “I’m shitting myself most of the time I’m putting something up.”
by Logan Ruppel