published Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Kitchen at Union Square showcases art of homeless

Artwork from the H*ART Gallery, which displays the work of homeless and non-traditional artists, is displayed in the Kitchen at Union Square on Friday.
Artwork from the H*ART Gallery, which displays the work of homeless and non-traditional artists, is displayed in the Kitchen at Union Square on Friday.
Photo by Shawn Paik.

The artist's pen name is Methec.

She was raised south of Atlanta and her childhood was carefree but poor, according to a note accompanying her work. In 2008, she became homeless, and soon after was diagnosed with liver disease.

Eventually, Methec hopes to make enough money from her paintings to support herself.

One of her paintings is now displayed, alongside the work of many other homeless and non-traditional artists from the H*ART Gallery, on the walls of the Kitchen at Union Square.

The restaurant has displayed the work of artists from the gallery for almost a month, and plans call for rotating out pieces indefinitely.

H*ART is a local nonprofit agency that offers weekly community-based art classes serving a diverse population of homeless, low-income seniors, at-risk inner-city youth, people with mental-health issues or physical challenges, and others in need.

The agency has nine to 10 classes taking place around Chattanooga each week and operates a gallery on Main Street.

"I have seen our classes tweak the entire self-worth of the artist and change their outlook on life," said Ellen Heavilon, founder and executive director of the H*ART gallery.

"The whole idea of our program is to let people play, and a small minority take it seriously and actually attempt to sell their art," Heavilon said.

The art that the gallery displays and sells is crucial to funding its operations and helping the artists become more financially self-sufficient. "Without customers purchasing art, nothing works. We are giving people an outlet to sell their art and make a personal profit, and we need to sell their art to fund H*ART," Heavilon said.

"We love what the H*ART Gallery is all about with their homeless and non-traditional students, and are excited to help give them more exposure," said Tasha Clark, assistant manager and event coordinator at Kitchen at Union Square.

"We are going to let the art hang," Clark said, "and if anyone is interested in it we will have them call the gallery for sales."

When a painting sells, 60 percent of the profits will go to the artist, 30 percent to the agency for expenses, and 10 percent will be donated to a charity of the artist's choice, Heavilon said.

Pieces start at $60 and go up to $700.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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