From Women's Event 2014From Homeless to Hometown Artist—Alexander Austin

The walls of the inner city form Alexander Austin’s gallery.  Among his creations are representations of jazz legends at 18th and Vine, stirring portraits of Kansas City history along Troost Avenue, and the Power & Light District’s 18,000-square-foot south wall.  Yet while most Kansas Citians are familiar with his work, few know the legendary artist was once homeless. At 27, Alexander came to Kansas City from Florida where he’d earned his GED and studied graphics and commercial arts at a technical school.  Here, he hoped to find a job at an area advertising agency, but couldn’t because of his limited education.  Instead, he found a low-paying job that barely covered the rent for his apartment.  When he lost that job and couldn’t afford the apartment, he lived on the streets. He was staying in a park when someone told him about City Union Mission.  “The Mission gave me a place to stay—to sleep,” Alexander says.  “One morning, I met a man who was painting a sign.”  The man took him under his wing and the two began painting signs throughout the city. “The Mission was a stepping stone for me to begin painting murals,” Alexander recalls.  “I wouldn’t have had that break and met the guy painting signs if it hadn’t been for the Mission.  I remember giving my life to Christ at the Mission one night, and my life hasn’t been the same since then.” In 2009, Alexander returned to the Mission for a different reason—to paint a mural on the wall of the multi-purpose room of the Mission’s new Christian Life Center.  The painting depicts men going through the progression of struggle and pain to victory.  He titled his work “Journey of Hope.” In the years that followed, Alexander has received countless awards for his work, and we’re honored that he continues to use his talents to benefit City Union Mission.  Most recently, as Major League Baseball’s 2012 Hometown Heroes Artist of the Year, he created drawings of each member of the 2013 Royals roster.  The framed originals are signed by the players themselves and are being offered for $1,000 each, with the proceeds supporting the Mission’s programs and services.  For more information on how to add Alexander’s drawing of your favorite Royals’ player to your memorabilia collection, contact Dennis Chapman at   dennis.chapman@cityunionmission.org.