6597984.jpgRecovering addict Evan James copes with life transition through painting

By: Amy Smart

Evan James, with one of his paintings at Pacifica Housing’s Camas Gardens, is among the dozen formerly homeless artists whose works are on display at Island Blue Art Store.
Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

Evan James says making art helped him survive five years living on the street.

“I think that’s the only thing that kept me going when I was homeless,” he said. “It kind of kept me in a positive spirit.”

Now 33, the recovering alcoholic is one of 12 formerly homeless artists whose work will be displayed at Island Blue Art Store this month. Each of the participants is a tenant of one of Pacifica Housing’s four supported complexes for individuals who are chronically homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The exhibit marks a full circle for James, who used to spend a portion of his panhandling money on canvases and art supplies from Island Blue.

“That’s where I was getting my supplies,” he said.

“If I made like eight dollars, that would be enough to get a canvas.”

James grew up in Duncan, where he says he had a troubled youth that included several run-ins with police. He was kicked out of high school for fighting with another student.

“It got pretty violent,” he said. “There was a lot of racism at that school.”

He started drinking at 17 – first only on weekends, but it devolved from there.

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