This communication paper addresses the role of ephemeral and temporary artistic interventions into the systemic problem of homelessness and the question of sustainability in social art practice. I approach these issues through my work with homeless service agencies that are shaped by rules and procedures intended to increase predictability, whereas, as an artist, my work resists such rigidity by carving out space for spontaneity, vulnerability, and renewal. The dilemma of sustaining socially engaged art long-term raises particular questions within the context of institutions such as these. Can a project be successful as a temporary intervention within systems of predictability? If a project does become sustainable in the long-term, is there a way it can retain a level of energy incited by newness and unexpectedness? I discuss these issues in the context of two of my long-term projects, Beauty in Transition
(2013–2016) and Choreographing Care
(2016–2021), both working within homeless service agencies. Beauty in Transition
was a pop-up mobile hair salon offering free haircare for transitional housing residents. Choreographing Care
, a project supporting homeless service staff, started as a socially engaged art project and was adopted into an emergency shelter in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A as an organizational initiative. The ideas I discuss in this paper are supported and inspired by disciplines of research including care ethics of Gilligan, social behavioral science of Goffman, and approaches to participation discussed by Helguera and Kaprow.