E. Trent Thompson has found a way to fuse his passion for art with helping people.
When the Tri-Valley artist opened his studio at The Switch, a collaborative work space on Second Street in Livermore, he befriended a homeless woman named Syndey living near the entrance. Thompson had the idea to paint her with creative nuances to acknowledge her as a valuable person.
"I took it out to her to show her, and she was absolutely delighted," Thompson recalled. "Just seeing her smile when she saw the picture inspired me that it was something to do more often."
He set out to paint others in need and thought of selling the paintings to benefit them. He went on to befriend and paint five other subjects, and called the program "Pictures for People." The next step was to hold an art show to sell the paintings, an event that raised almost $8,000 in March.
Thompson is the Pleasanton Weekly's 2019 Tri-Valley Hero for Arts & Culture for his efforts. His next show, "Pictures for People 2.0," is planned tentatively for next September. This time other artists are joining in the endeavor, which will be held at Penny Weight Brew and again benefit CityServe of the Tri-Valley.
"It was always just a cool way to tie in what I do with trying to help people," Thompson said. "It seemed like a win-win at the time, and I'm looking forward to doing it again."
Thompson, 24, was raised outside Rochester, N.Y., and moved to California to attend Azusa Pacific University where he earned a degree in cinematic arts with a concentration in animation and a minor in fine art. Now he lives in Dublin and is establishing himself as an "Art-Tre-Pre-Neur."
For the last show, he said, about 20% of the work was the painting and 80% was getting to know people and coordinating the endeavor.
"By doing the first one, I have been able to make connections, and I can make this one bigger and better," Thompson said. "Part of what I've been doing professionally is organizing art shows."
His company, Only Up, a creative project agency, also is putting together a mural festival for May, a month-long series of happenings and artists painting murals on exteriors in Livermore, which will kick off with a talent show at the Bankhead Theater.
"I run a creative agency -- some days I'm painting, selling fine art, selling murals, or I'm in front of the computer doing design work," Thompson said. "We build brands, starting with artwork as the concept behind the brand."
His family is supportive of his efforts to help others.
"I think my parents always built that mentality in myself, and also in my brother and sister," Thompson said. "We were raised that we should be welcoming to all and do what we can to give back."
Despite all the positive feedback from the community, Thompson expressed concern that even after the publicity and funds raised by "Pictures for People" his friend Syndey still lives on the sidewalk.
"It's been a humbling experience to learn about the issue of homelessness and all that it takes for a community to make a difference," Thompson noted. "It's an uphill battle, but one that is worth fighting."
"It's been eye-opening to talk to the people working on issues as a full-time job, to hear from them about all of the bureaucracy," he added.
For updates on the "Pictures for People 2.0" project, go to www.etrentart.com/pictures-for-people and sign up to be notified about next year's show. To learn more about the mural festival, visit www.onlyupteam.com/outbreak.
I am inspired by the idea that artwork has the power to spark movements and systems greater than myself. I think of my artwork as a journal of moments, feelings and concepts, which I demonstrate by a mix of symbolism, mediums and subjects. My artworks are schematic, inviting the viewer to move into a space of speculation. I have branded myself an art-tre-pre-neur because I aim to leverage my natural proclivity for hustle to propel me throughout my career.
-- E. Trent Thompson
* E. Trent Thompson played baseball all through college.
* He plays the drums and has performed in jazz bands and marching bands.
* He is getting married next summer, as is his brother in Vancouver. They are planning their weddings five days apart so family and friends from the East Coast can make one trip for both.
* He has illustrated and published a book called "Feel," which is a mental health resource to help people establish emotional literacy.