Life Changing Conversation

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By: Avery Greenblatt

One day while reading in his apartment, Brian Peterson made a decision that would change his life and the lives of many others. There was a homeless man who stood at the corner near the building where Brian, who often yelled at passersby. Brian and his wife could hear his shouts from their apartment. One day Brian decided to go down and talk to the homeless man. 

Brian struck up a conversation with him and learned that his name was Matt Faris, and that he attempted a career in music, but failed. He had been living on the streets for the past few years. Brian, a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art, had not tried painting in years, but decided to ask Matt if he could try painting a portrait of him. 

On a podcast, Brian said, “I saw beauty on the face of a man who hadn’t shaved in probably a year, had overgrown fingernails, probably hadn’t had a shower in close to a year. But his story, the life inside of him, inspired me.”

From this interaction with Matt, Brian got the idea to start a non-profit organization called Faces of Santa Ana, which focuses on having people befriend homeless people in the community, and paint their portraits. These paintings, which are signed by both the artist as well as the subject, are then sold for a few thousand dollars.  

Half of the proceeds from the painting are given to the subject of the painting, which they can use to help get their lives back on track. Matt Faris, Brian’s first portrait subject, used the funds to record an album and start fulfilling his musical dreams. 

Since starting Faces of Santa Ana, Brian and his family have moved to Florida, where he started another non-profit called Faces of Mankind, which is run by a collection of artists who do the same thing on a much larger scale across the country. 

Brian said “People often tell me, ‘I was the one that would cross the street. But I see homeless people differently now, I didn’t know that would happen.” Brian and his organizations have helped many homeless people start rebuilding their lives, and we can all learn from Brian how we can use our skills and talents to help those around us who are struggling.

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