Manatee County, like many communities across Florida, is wrestling with escalating homelessness, fueled by inflation and skyrocketing housing prices. The sight of homeless people has unfortunately become a commonplace scene in this picturesque corner of the Sunshine State. Moved by these heart-wrenching sights and his own personal experiences, local artist Jeff Riggan decided to bring the issue to the forefront through his art, with a new series titled “OTG: Off the Grid, Art with a Purpose.”
An Intimate Connection with Homelessness
Riggan brings a deeply personal understanding to this issue, after having lost his home in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Today, he continues to struggle with the area’s sky-high rents and says he knows exactly what it feels like to be “one medical bill away from being homeless.”
As he witnessed the homelessness crisis worsening in his community and watched a neighbor move into their car due to rising rents, Riggan felt compelled to use his art to give a voice to this pervasive issue.
He wants people to understand that homelessness is an experience that can touch anyone, regardless of background or circumstances – and this is one reason why scenes of panhandlers approaching vehicles at intersections have become as much a part of Florida’s fabric as its popular beaches.
Transforming Trash into Treasures: Riggan’s Artistic Process
The OTG Project highlights the issue of homelessness through sculptures made from found objects and recycled materials. His signature “rusted and busted” style brings an air of raw authenticity to these pieces, a stark contrast to the usually pristine depictions of Florida’s landscapes.
Using scrap wood, tiles, discarded jewelry, old popsicle sticks, wires, clay, and even old pizza boxes, Riggan crafts three-dimensional scenes that echo the unfiltered grittiness of street life.
His experience as a sculptor and background in building theme park attractions for Universal Studios shine through in the intricate details of his dioramas.
Currently, the series comprises three completed dioramas: a panhandler in a median, a tented homeless encampment, and a beach scene complete with a movable swing.
These pieces are not born purely of imagination but are reflections of scenes Riggan has witnessed firsthand right here in Bradenton and Sarasota.
Art as Advocacy: Raising Awareness and Fostering Change
Beyond creating impactful art, Riggan hopes his work will serve as a catalyst for social change. “I don’t have the solution,” he confesses, “but I really hope that this can turn some heads.”
His goal is to partner with nonprofits and agencies that are already working towards raising awareness about homelessness and to contribute to their efforts.
He is passionate about the need for society to confront and address this issue, which continues to escalate in severity.
Riggan hopes to connect with art galleries, philanthropists, and benefactors that will assist with displaying his work and possibly taking it on tour, raising even more awareness of this critical issue.
Jeff Riggan: A Multi-talented Artist with a Mission
While his current focus is on OTG: Off The Grid, Art with a Purpose, Jeff Riggan’s artistic talent covers a broad spectrum, from creating TV sets and theme park attractions to painting murals and fabricating large-scale artwork.
After relocating from Atlanta to Bradenton, he launched Monster Art Studio and Gulf Coast Art & Mural Co. and spends much of his time crafting unique, custom pieces, often from upcycled materials, adding a unique touch to local establishments.
Riggan’s public murals can also be found throughout the city, including at The Beach Shop on Cortez Rd. West and Wicked Awesome Ice Cream at Lakewood Ranch. Despite his numerous achievements, he remains humble and passionate about his latest project.
To learn more about the OTG Project, contact Jeff Riggan at email@example.com or (404) 200-1594.