Sometimes art is so public—in galleries, in gardens, on exterior walls of buildings—that unless we purchase it ourselves, we forget that it may go on to live a private life inside a home, becoming part of the fabric of lived human experience. In the case of “Housing2Home,” this month’s exhibition at New City Arts Initiative’s Welcome Gallery, the art on display is guaranteed domestic bliss afterward, bringing light inside the houses of formerly homeless women and men in the Charlottesville area—which New City Arts Initiative notes has more than 700 homeless residents annually.
“Housing2Home” is on view at New City Arts Initiative’s Welcome Gallery through June 30. The exhibition includes the work of 19 local artists, spanning the mediums of quilting, painting, sculpting and light fixtures. Photographs by Andrea Hubbell document the spaces the residents now call home, newly christened with carefully created art.
The Haven has been meeting the basic needs and addressing the housing crises of area homeless since 2004, and all clients enrolled in its Housing First program are also invited to participate in Housing2Home. The Housing2Home initiative has served 56 clients to date, assisting in the process of making new living spaces feel more personal through art and furnishings.
“Housing2Home” is a collaboration between The Haven and NCAI that is funded by ArtPlace America. The project seeks to help formerly homeless residents outfit their new houses with furnishings and art that lend a sense of comfort and belonging, therefore creating a more stable home environment.
Elly Roller, programs coordinator at New City Arts Initiative, is responsible for commissioning the artwork to meet her clients’ specifications. When someone requested a painting of a beach sunrise, she knew who to ask. Brittany Fan is a local painter, photographer and graphic designer. Her landscape paintings emit a warmth through their energetic brushstrokes and carefully selected light color palette.
Roller and Fan have known each other for years, and both graduated from the University of Virginia in 2015. “I was happy to do it,” Fan says of the painting, “and pretty much agreed on the spot.” In a serendipitous moment the week after she accepted the commission, Fan visited Virginia Beach for a previously scheduled engagement. “I decided to capture imagery while I was there,” she says, and awoke early each morning to take photos of the sunrise over the ocean.
Once she had completed the painting, Roller asked Fan if she’d like to accompany her in delivering it to the client. Fan says, “When I went to meet him and give him his painting, I asked him why he wanted a painting of the beach in particular. He shared that while he was homeless, he drove to Virginia Beach and slept in his truck by the shore, and woke up each morning to watch the sunrise. Without knowing that he had been living in that area and seeing the same sunrise that I was inspired by, I ended up painting the very thing that became a special memory for him during that hard season of life.”
Fan was deeply struck by the connection. She says, “It was encouraging to see how this work of art and the nature behind it became a shared joy for us, despite the differences in our walks of life.” The client then told Fan that her painting made the room feel complete. “He told me he thought it was beautiful. And that it was exactly what he was hoping for,” she says.
While Fan admits she’s always loved to create, the experience of making a painting for someone who might not otherwise be able to afford one for his home has had a particular impact on her. “I think that beauty is universally appreciated and belongs to everyone,” she says. “So creating a piece for someone who had been homeless was truly special because I was able to share something that I think all people deserve to share in.”