Our Vendors 

Bringing personality and poetry to art

Tue, Dec 11, 2012

In 2005, I first met Roark E. Moody, a poet, a vendor, who was then selling the StreetWise paper at his location on Randolph Street, the Chicago Cultural Center. I found him by chance—searching for a vendor who was creative and interesting. Roark impressed me instantly which his polite and engaging personality, and how excellent his poetry was. After talking a while, and listening to some of his deep poems, I asked him if he was interested in showing/performing his work in an art gallery. He was very enthusiastic. We became collaborators in an art installation at ARC Gallery & Educational Foundation in Chicago and we became friends over the following 10 years, meeting up for lunch and chats, or just a hug and a paper.

The art show we did at ARC Gallery, was a conceptual piece, joining of art and social issues, aiming to direct the viewer—to think about things and people we discard/disregard in society and our daily lives. His poems were placed on large printouts in the installation, along with my video conversation telling a bit about his life and art. It was a very emotionally satisfying work, and Roark was actively engaged with the art visitors; in conversation about his poems. The collaborative art show of myself with installation and video of the Poet Roark E. Moody, brought art patrons in touch on a personal basis, with a homeless person in a gallery setting. An unusual approach to make connections. Roark E. Moody was engaged and loved this collaboration, he stated it was the first time he was in an art show. The art show was to show contrasts and what we had in common – one-to-one human interaction – in a relaxed setting rather the normal engagement on the street where they sold the paper for a living.

The live element of Roark, selling the StreetWise newspaper surprised many—as you may imagine–such a mix of reaction from engaging in unlikely conversations, to ignoring the installation or walking across the room to avoid it. I also gave Moody an “honorarium” for his performance in the art—and Moody also “sold-out” all the StreetWise papers he had!

He loved talking with the gallery visitors at the opening event! I am still moved by this collaborative installation and many good things happened because of it. The rest was history, he became reconnected with his son and family, Reunited!

An amazing thing happened, which was profoundly moving. Roark’s son found my web posting of the show and videos of his dad. They reconnected after a very long time and started seeing each other often. This is the healing power of art.

Roark E. Moody, he will be missed, his poetry and art lives on. I found him by chance. Seek out his poetry, it speaks to the heart and soul.

Rest in peace dear friend. Sorry I lost touch with you over the last year or so.

Written by Nancy Bechtol,
On hearing the death of Roark E. Moody

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