* What: Hart Gallery, 110 E. Main St.
* Phone: 521-4707
* Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
* Website: hartgallerytn.com
About every three months, Hart Gallery owner Ellen Heavilon gets to write checks to area charitable agencies based on the sales of the art pieces sold at the gallery. Some checks might be for a dollar and sometimes, as was the case last week, the amount can be 100 times that.
While it might not be enough to greatly impact a charity's bottom line, what those checks represent to the artist is hard to put a value on.
"It means so much to them," Heavilon says.
Heavilon conceived the idea for the gallery at the corner of Main Street and Rossville Avenue in 2009, and today it is a thriving, self-sustaining business that sells art created by area transients, homeless people, folks with disabilities and wounded war veterans. Pieces range from oils and pastels to hand-made jewelry and found-art pieces.
On a recent Wednesday, a half dozen people are seated around a work table, creating everything from paintings to bricks bearing the names of the more than 100 homeless people that have died since the gallery opened; they will be used in a public art piece near Rossville Avenue in front of the gallery.
Dressed in a black vest and matching fedora, artist Jasen Boston looks over his recent drawings and paintings. He is a regular at the gallery and his paintings and drawings adorn the walls. They are relatively popular pieces with patrons, Heavilon says.
"I don't do this for the money," says Boston, a resident of the Chattanooga Rescue Mission. "I just want to add beauty in an ugly world. It means a lot to me to be able to come here and paint and to have a place to show my work."
Boston is one of the few Hart Gallery artists with any art training. He is also a cook and started culinary classes at Virginia College this week. He sees cooking as just another way to create beautiful things that make people happy.
Heavilon, joined by staff members Rebekah Rapp and Brooke Montague, regularly visits area social agencies and centers such as the Community Kitchen, taking art supplies with them. Patrons are asked to draw, paint or create anything they want. In most cases, it's the person's first attempt at making art.
Those that show an aptitude or a serious interest are invited to come to the Hart Gallery on Wednesdays and Thursdays for lunch and a work session. They can earn money for their labor, primarily working on the public art projects such as the bricks, and sell their art, which fills the gallery.
Heavilon also keeps accounts for some of the artists and, for those who don't want to be paid in cash, she lets them work for such things as bicycles, suitcases or supplies for an apartment, which she purchases for them when they've earned enough credit.
The artist keeps 60 percent of all sales and Heavilon takes 10 percent, which she donates to whichever agency or charity the artist chooses. The remaining 30 percent is used to buy more art supplies. Event rentals for the building and donations cover the other expenses.
Writing those donations checks are Heavilon's favorite part of the job.
"It might only be a dollar or two, but it means a lot to the person to be able to make that donation," she says.
Prices for the pieces range from $5 to $300. In the last quarter, Boston sold more than $1,000 worth of pieces.
"I gave the Rescue Mission a check for almost $100 today because of you, Jasen," Heavilon told him.
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.