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Local artist uses profits to feed homeless

PHOENIX -- Robots, sharks and bugs that shoot out lawn clippings greet visitors from Alexi Devilliers' front lawn in Tempe.

Devilliers makes the creatures out of recycled tin cans and other materials. He sells his art at First Fridays on Roosevelt Row in Phoenix as well as at Method Art Gallery in Scottsdale.

Instead of pocketing the profits, he uses them to purchase ingredients for meals he then donates to people who are homeless.

Every Saturday for the past four years, Devilliers has awakened at 4 a.m. to begin cooking about 100 meals.

He works closely with Justa Center, a day-resource center in Phoenix for men and women ages 55 and older. It helps clients find housing, employment and medical assistance.

Once Devilliers' finishes cooking and boxing the meals, he loads them into his van and delivers them to the center. The center then distributes the meals to individuals for lunch.

His efforts began when Devilliers had some extra money and decided to help people in the community, he said.

Devilliers and wife Denise began cooking meals and donating to individuals in the community. He saved the tin cans from the food.

"They go into landfills, so I was like, man, let me see what I can do with these," he said.

After awhile, he stuck two cans together and saw the potential, he said.

He has created dogs and a sawfish made out of a working tree trimmer. He has even used Barbie heads to make bionic robots.

An average robot takes three to six hours to complete, which includes the time spent scavenging for parts -- sometimes at Goodwill, sometimes in dumpsters.

"Anything I can use, I use. Someone will buy it eventually," he laughed.

Method Art Gallery owner Davin Lavikka said he met Devilliers more than a year ago at First Friday.

"He's got a rambunctious and wild attitude," Lavikka said.

"He's a very giving guy, and even though he has this rough and tumble attitude. he's still just a really good guy," he said.

Method has sold more than 100 of Devilliers' pieces since he joined the gallery a year ago, Lavikka said.

"It doesn't matter if you're 5 years old or 60, everyone likes them," he said.

Lavikka said on average the pieces range from $150 to $160.

The gallery takes a lower commission from Devilliers' art than from that of other artists.

"He's not working for any nonprofit. He and his wife just do this, which I think is a huge plus," he said.

Devilliers worked as a maintenance man until recently when he was laid off. He was never trained in art but learned his techniques through his high school tech courses and experimenting.

Devilliers said he tries to keep the food costs down by purchasing from discount stores, trading surplus materials with the Escalante Community Center in Tempe and using donations from others.

"I try to keep it at $1 per person, but it gets harder and harder," he said.

He spends about $150 a week on food, gas and miscellaneous items such as utensils and boxes, he said.

When his work first began, he would travel to rough neighborhoods in Phoenix and hand out food to individuals, he said.

He soon ran into issues with violence and threats.

He said he then found Justa Center.

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