“Shelter Me,” a collection of expressively painted umbrellas and writings about shelter and homelessness will be exhibited in the Upstairs Gallery at the Newport Visual Arts Center in May.
The students in the After School Achievement Club at the Seashore Literacy Center in Waldport sit in a reading circle and share a little about their day. The students talked about shelter and homelessness. They watched a video, “Invisible Children,” and talked about what children might need. They talked about giving the umbrellas to homeless people for shelter, but that the umbrellas are not enough. And they talked about their own experiences with homelessness. From this discussion came a word list – safety, love, compassion, empathy, kindness, peace, security, hope – to describe the concept of the project. A lot of children in the group have experienced homelessness; not living with a mother and father in a home, living with grandparents or other relatives, living in cars, camping in other peoples back yards, kids who don’t have a family. This led to the definition for them that homelessness is when you don’t have a place to call home.
Since January, the children have painted over seventy umbrellas and their goal is to paint 500 or more. Handprints and flowers are favorite subjects. Some students work out a design before they start painting. It takes a long time to paint an artistic umbrella and can’t be done in just one day. Jake loves to draw comics and painted a comic book umbrella, Lillian just finished a watermelon umbrella, green on the outside, pink with dark spots on the inside. An umbrella on display at the center says Shelter Me with stick figures holding hands around the perimeter.
Led by Drew Myron, the after school writers group is writing about homelessness. Children put their thoughts on paper and write poems about the Shelter Me Project.
The children want everyone to think about homelessness and they know that when people see the umbrellas, they will ask what they are about. The kids wrote the copy and designed a flyer to promote the Shelter Me Project that accompanies the umbrellas displayed in businesses around Waldport. They presented their project to the Waldport Chamber of Commerce and now umbrellas are on display with collection boxes for umbrellas at Washington Federal Bank, Columbia Bank, the Waldport Public Library, Well-Read Books, Waldport Video and the Seashore Literacy Center, and a money donation box at Grand Central Pizza.
What will be done with all the umbrellas? Haily, the spokesperson for the project, says that the Center receives donations to help it continue, but the kids and families need “things.” The umbrellas are not for sale now, but future sales from the umbrellas could purchase new t-shirts for the kids or pay a family’s electric bill or help a homeless person or family in some way. The Seashore Literacy Center is located in the Da Nople House across from City Hall in Waldport at 125 SW Spruce Street.
The students are hanging the show of over 20 umbrellas along with pictures and poems to express about the project. Umbrellas can be donated for the project during the show.
“Shelter Me” is sponsored by Oregon Coast Council for the Arts (OCCA) in the Upstairs Gallery of the Newport Visual Arts Center at 777 NW Beach Drive on the Nye Beach Turnaround.