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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

Housing complex hosting art installation to celebrate New Year's Eve, their tenants and 50-year history

The "50 Years, 50 Faces of Oakridge" art installation will take place this Thursday from 6-6:30 p.m.

DES MOINES, Iowa — This New Year's Eve, the Oakridge Neighborhood community is hosting an art installation titled "50 Years, 50 Faces of Oakridge". 

Its purpose is to celebrate the diversity among the residents and the housing project being around for 50 years. 

But it's also a way to facilitate a change in the narratives associated with low-income housing, by showing anyone who stops by to see the art, the residents of this housing project are more than their environments.

The CEO and President of the 17-acre complex, Teree Caldwell-Johnson, said the art installation will be projected onto a wall on the Silver Oaks building, in the neighborhood. 

"The 50 faces ... allows us to reflect not only the individuals that we serve but also the resilience of those individuals as they persevere through all of the effects not only of COVID in 2020, but the effects of poverty," Caldwell-Johnson said.

She also mentioned how Oakridge has nearly 1,100 residents who reside in the community, and 90% are considered low-income. 

Caldwell-Johnson noted the complex is Iowa's largest low-income, Section Eight housing project, but one of their missions is to provide residents with a way to create opportunities to be self-sufficient. 

To do this, education and employability programs are offered on-site, and it's also promoted to the children who live at the complex.  

"We do those things for those students that are really important, so they begin to understand that their future is really about preparing now," Caldwell-Johnson said. "And thinking about the things that they need to do, so they can change that cycle of poverty in their own lives."

By showcasing images of the residents in the art installation, coupled with the programs they provide for their occupants, Caldwell-Johnson hopes it will further show others that people who live in low-income housing are capable of more than just creating headlines for bad news stories. 

"So I think we've changed the narrative because we've changed our mindset," Caldwell-Johnson said. "We wrap, literally wrap our families with supportive services that allow them to do anything and all the things they would want to do. And to dream the boldest thing they can think about, for their future."

The art installation will take place this New Year's Eve from 6-6:30 p.m. 

The project is in collaboration with Robert Moore and Scott Kaven, who will be assisting with the video production and Paige Peterson Photography, who took the photos.

Caldwell-Johnson said the projected photos will be seen from Keo Way and the nearby interstate. 

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