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Diverse Community Leader Award Honoree

Brian Peterson (Santa Ana)

The homeless are almost completely without a public face, and Brian Peterson’s advocacy with Faces of Santa Ana has given them a presence and their plight much needed advocacy. His work for the homeless is tireless, generous, selfless, and of significant impact.

Faces of Santa Ana is a project in which members of the homeless community of Santa Ana were befriended and then had their portraits painted. The artwork was sold and the proceeds used to help in rehabilitating these newfound friends. The mission of Faces of Santa Ana is to locally help those in need while also inspiring and activating creative people and supporters of the movement.

Brian said the most gratifying part of his Faces of Santa Ana project came when he asked his homeless subjects to sign their portraits. His hope was that Matt, Darryl, and a handful of other homeless people that he painted would see a tangible benefit from their posing. So, when Brian sells their portrait for $1,500, he dedicates $1,000 of the price toward a “love account”, which the homeless person can then use to purchase whatever they need. Brian’s investment in his homeless subjects doesn’t end with the sale of the original artwork. He also sells prints of the paintings for $85 each and puts $50 of that towards his homeless friends’ “love accounts.” He has also used his own resources to purchase wheelchairs, train tickets and Army cots and to cover the cost of motel rooms for other homeless people he has met.

Brian already has a full-time job, so this project is done entirely on his personal time. According to Peterson, “I know it sounds cliché, but I feel like I’ve found my calling, and that is using the talents that I’ve been given to help people. I’ve realized and learned that art can help someone, both with financial needs and also in emotional ways. The art changes them from the inside. When they see their portraits, they realize someone cares about them.”

Still, Brian maintains that he isn’t trying to end homelessness. “This project isn’t trying to solve homelessness as an issue,” he said. “It’s just trying to connect people with people. It’s a person-to-person connection. It’s an incredible thing.”

About the Award

Our annual Diverse Community Leaders Award honors individuals and groups who have made extraordinary contributions to Orange County in human or civil rights.

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