Melbourne, FL (Florida Today) -- Most days, Arthur Richardson can be found sitting on the bench that
fronts The Baby Patch on New Haven Avenue in downtown Melbourne.
is the plein air studio where he makes and sells his paintings and
cards. Here, too, is his home, at least during the day. Richardson is
homeless, and his earthly possessions comprise the contents of his
backpack, an umbrella to contend with fickle Florida weather and a
couple of bags to cart around his art materials.
hasn't been generous to Richardson. Homelessness hit four years ago
when he couldn't find a job as a carpenter, but his fortunes may turn
now that Melbourne Main Street chose him as the poster artist for this
year's Fall Festival.
is a gift," said Angela LoPresti of The Petite Boutiques in downtown
Melbourne. "If we are having a bad day, we just go out and talk to him.
He is always so friendly and insightful."
"It felt like a million dollars," said Richardson, upon hearing that his artwork will serve to convey the festival's spirit.
Richardson's sunny art for the poster was the idea of Melbourne
resident Vicky Zemkoski, part of the Pod Squad, the team hired by
Melbourne Main Street to orchestrate the art-related aspects of the
"He is a
blessing to us downtown," said Zemkoski. "We discussed using the art of
local students, but why shouldn't we use the best artist we have right
was tasked with a specific design. With a blank canvas donated by Canvas
Depot and studio space by the The Petite Boutiques, he went to work.
of our business owners love Arthur's honest approach to life, so it
seemed that allowing him to create the poster truly symbolizes a portion
of what Melbourne Main Street stands for," said Melbourne Main Street
executive director Laird Gann.
happens to most artists, however, the patrons ultimately wanted to
tweak Richardson's original painting. The art review committee, familiar
with his pencil drawings, decided colored pencil and pastels rather
than paint would better represent Richardson's style. Unlike many
artists, Robinson didn't mind the change in plans at all and he gladly
re-created the image in the preferred media.
Richardson's original mixed media piece will be raffled off at the
end of the Fall Festival. All proceeds from the raffle will go directly
to Richardson, who will probably use the money to treat himself to a
hotel room for an evening or two. Richardson's many merchant friends
also hope the publicity may eventually find a job for him.
"It is frustrating to not have a job, but I talk to God, and he makes me see things differently," said Richardson.
income these days comes primarily from sales of the cards and
hand-painted hankies passersby purchase for $3 and $10 respectively, but
Robinson admits he's not the best of businessmen even when sales are
brisk, which is rare.
"Sometimes, when God says to give, I give my work away," he said.
in Leon County, Richardson worked his way throughout the state and then
rattled around the United States from corner to corner.
"I didn't give Seattle enough time to grow on me," he said of his foray out west.
visited Jamaica, Germany, Alaska and Africa, but home in the Florida
Panhandle always beckoned, until a couple of fights in Tallahassee again
sent him hitchhiking out of town. A kindly tractor trailer driver
dropped him off in Melbourne. Richardson felt he was home.
Daily Bread feeds his body, and his friends among the Melbourne
merchants feed his heart. His God takes care of the rest. Rain and cold
can be problematic, but Richardson prefers not to rely on local homeless
shelters because of an altercation he had there some time ago. Most
days he sleeps under the stars, in no particular place at no specific
"I sleep wherever I get tired at," he said. "I have good friends that look out for me."
artistic style remains optimistic and joyful, belying the hardships he
has faced. The fact that he can draw at all never ceases to amaze him.
His material possessions are few, but he has the ability to create, he
has friends who care for him and he has his faith. What more does anyone
need, he says.
"God has given me great gifts," he said. "I like to draw. I like talking to people. I like talking to God."