Arts Impact Housing by Safiya Neal

Safiya Neal Painting.jpeg

I think my story is important because it paints a picture of elevation through art. My first experience with elevation through art was over 12 years ago when I was in an abusive relationship with really no where to turn. I turned to art and enrolled in the Art institute of Las Vegas and truly fell in love with the art culture in every aspect. My love for art was frowned upon by almost every one I knew, especially my kids father who felt I should continue to do hair because it was so profitable.

During my time at the Art Institute I discovered works by Norman Lewis and fell in love with a painting called Yellow Hat. I tried my hardest to recreate that painting because it was everything that I was feeling at that particular time. I recall tears rolling down my eyes as I painted this beautiful and pained sad woman, and at that moment was truly a life escape.

Years later, I left Las Vegas with two sets of twins in tow, moved back in with my mom and finally returned back to the hair business. During that time I still dabbled with art and ended up on the cover of N Magazine which gave me the momentum to keep painting.

Two years after my move back to Sacramento one of my kids was diagnosed with Autisma and only after two months after the death of both of my parents. Needless to say I went into a dark depression. Having no support, I was drowning. I stopped sleeping for months and was faced with the hard reality of quitting my job because my kids needed me and my household was falling apart.

Rent was on the rise and things where getting really tight. All I remember is that I was reading a newspaper and read that Bottles and Barlow’s was one of the most anticipated businesses in the world and would be opening several months down the line. I thought to myself ‘maybe I could be a barber, it’s less demanding.’ I needed to see the location of Bottles and Barlow’s, even though the opening date was set for months away.

I traveled from my frumpy apartment in Natomas to see Bottles and Barlow and instead I discovered this magical building called Wal. It was affordable living for artists.

I got in!!! My life has not been the same since. My sons are now grown and living on their own. My daughters still live with me. My daughter Kayla who is autistic has required a great deal of my attention from therapy sessions and numerous appointments.

When ever life permits, my art is there. I’ve opened my home numerous of times on First Friday to help keep my momentum as an artist going. I thank God for my community and the vision that went into Wal.

Because of my passion for art I’m able to be creative and care for my children while living in an affordable beautiful community.



Whitney Kear