Meet Your Neighbor: Bill Jean


Back in 2015, full-time artist William Martin Jean, began his “Art for the Homeless” program in collaboration with FrontLine Service, offering a safe space to create and express ideas freely for individuals experiencing homelessness and trauma.

After spending most of his life teaching art at different institutions throughout Cleveland, including the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and many different public schools, William (who mainly goes by Bill) decided to start utilizing his studio in the Tower Press building as a headquarters for these bi-monthly “Art for the Homeless” sessions. Working in collaboration with FrontLine and receiving grant funding from Neighborhood Connections has allowed for these art sessions to consistently take place over the years and give individuals experiencing trauma a space to relax and make art.

Superior Ave. banner design sessions in Bill’s studio

Superior Ave. banner design sessions in Bill’s studio

The idea for these workshops sparked from a project Bill worked on with men staying at the 2100 Lakeside shelter. Back in 2014, these men, alongside other members of the community, worked together in Bill’s studio to design artwork for banners along Superior Avenue. Bill quickly realized that the men really enjoyed these art sessions and that they helped give them a sense of self worth, so he worked to raise money to continue doing them.

With over 40 years of teaching experience under his belt, Bill still feels just as passionate about his work to this day. “I love working with people. I find that the biggest reward. People are interesting.” Bill takes pride in the fact that he stays in touch with his students, not only from his current workshops, but even from when he taught at different public schools throughout the Cleveland area.

In his spare time when he’s not creating or instructing art, Bill still finds a way to be involved in the arts. He has a background theatre and stage work and enjoys playing the cello. To learn more about Bill Jean and see his own artwork, feel free to check out his website.

Coming up on May 14th lasting through May 16th, you can have the opportunity to see the artwork Bill and his class have been working on. From 11:00am-1:00pm on the 14th-16th, the Wooltex Gallery in the Tower Press building will be hosting an exhibition featuring some of the artwork made in these art sessions. Check out a sneak peek of some of the artwork above!

Article by Connor O’Brien