Photo courtesy of Trent Thompson
Photo courtesy of Trent Thompson

APU Alumnus Connects Community Through Art

by Nathan Foster

E. Trent Thompson ’17 glides his brush down the canvas slowly, deliberately. He is painting with love and with a goal. Each stroke tells a story and each painting connects his community in new and profound ways. Thompson, who graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a B.A. in cinematic arts and a minor in fine art, runs a creative agency and sells art at a collaborative workspace in Livermore, California. He discovered inspiration for his art on his way to the office, where he often passed by a homeless woman named Sydney who sat outside the building. “I would say hi and move on about my day,” he said. “Occasionally, I brought her lunch.” Over time, Thompson built a friendship with Sydney, which sparked an idea. He asked Sydney if he could take a picture of her to use for a painting. “I wanted to make her feel seen, to know that people care for her and wish they could help.” She said, “Yes,” and, in that moment, Pictures 4 People was born.

“This is a grassroots movement that aims to call attention to the needs of individuals in our community that we walk by everyday,” Thompson said. His Instagram account captures the stories behind his artwork. “Each painting is attributed to a specific cause, highlighted through the person and the art, to raise money for a community organization doing the groundwork to make the world a better place.” These nonprofits include a food kitchen, a homeless shelter, a special needs organization, and a ministry dedicated to helping victims of abuse.

“Painting ties into my faith directly,” he said. “I’m trying to love with actions instead of words, to focus on listening to their stories and planting seeds of hope as opposed to judging.”

Over the course of the last five months, he has met and painted portraits of six people, including four homeless individuals. Thompson uses acrylic and spray paint on canvas, a form he calls “urban contemporary” that lends a unique style to each piece.

He garners positive feedback from his portrait subjects and from the surrounding tri-valley community. Many people who view the paintings on Instagram ask if they can donate money or goods. Recently, Thompson collaborated with several local nonprofits to host an auction. More than 100 people attended. “We packed the house and sold all the paintings,” he said. “We raised nearly $8,000, all of which went to local nonprofits to assist the individuals.”

Three of those he painted attended the auction and connected with the people who bought their portraits. This successful outcome was more than he hoped for when he began the project, let alone when he graduated from APU just two years earlier. “APU helped me build confidence,” he said. “As an artist, I decided to try something unlike I had ever seen before.”

Thompson’s desire is to infuse compassion into the community through his paintings. “By purchasing a painting, we hope to fund community organizations and projects that will better the lives of our brothers and sisters in need,” he said. To view Trent’s art, visit his website.

Nathan is a public relations intern for the Office of University Relations. He is a junior double majoring in journalism and public relations.