Home is Where the Heart Is: Share Your Heart

 

 

Approximately 550 Asheville homeless people do not know where they will sleep tonight.   In 2010, an estimated 2,000 Asheville residents were homeless. Filings of foreclosures in the Asheville metropolitan area tripled from 2009 to 2010, continuing to put more people at risk of becoming homeless.
Local artists Chloe Kemp and James Daniel have joined forces with Pisgah Legal Services (PLS) and the Asheville Area Arts Council to produce “Living on the Edge” – a multi-media art project utilizing photographs, video, drawings, and paintings.  The goal of this project is to bring more awareness and assistance to the plight of people in the Asheville metro area who are finding themselves living on the edge.
As the effects of the recession have taken hold in Western North Carolina, Pisgah Legal Services’ phones have been ringing non-stop.  More people have called, desperate for legal help to stop foreclosure on their homes, manage their debt after being laid off, or escape domestic abuse that has intensified in these tough economic times.   In 2010, PLS assisted more than 10,800 people avoid homelessness, escape domestic violence, access health care, and secure subsistence income.
“For many, all it takes is an unexpected car repair, medical bill, or loss of wages to put them in a crisis that can lead to job loss, crippling debt, and homelessness,” said PLS Director, Jim Barrett.  Social safety nets are being chipped away by federal, state, and local budget cuts. “PLS is determined not to reduce our assistance to people who desperately need it. Without the additional help from local contributions, it will be very difficult to assist all those who need us the most.”
“Living on the Edge” will be exhibited during the month of September at The Artery, the multi-purpose exhibition and event facility of the Asheville Area Arts Council, located in the River Arts District.  The opening reception will be Friday, September 9, from 6 – 9 pm, 346 Depot Street. 
Chloe and James came together to shine more light on those whose lives are a daily struggle. Chloe walked the streets of Asheville to meet people who are finding themselves in a downward spiral.  She took photographs, interviewed, and videotaped, as they shared their personal stories.  James used Chloe’s photos to draw and paint his art for the project.
“My hope is that this project will bring immense benefit to all those involved,” said James. “This project has forever changed my life,” Chloe added.  “What had the biggest impact on me was how invisible and forgotten some of these people feel.  Many literally cried when I told them I wanted to hear their story.” 
As a few tears rolled down his cheek, one young man in his early ‘40s said, “It has been so long since someone was willing to listen to me talk about myself.” The father of a four-year-old, he had been living out of a school bus for over a year.  “All I want to do is work. I want to be able to pay my way and support my family.”
There are many circumstances that contributed to these people’s misfortune.  Some are Veterans who have never fully recovered from the physical and emotional effects of war.  Others are victims of abuse.  One man was never able to get over his wife’s sudden death.  Another had both parents die and the plant where he worked his whole life close down—all within the same year.  It was literally too much for him to manage. He lost his house and soon found himself homeless.
A woman finally had the courage to leave a marriage that had been a nightmare of domestic violence and control. She literally left Florida with only the clothes on her back. When she arrived in North Carolina, she ran out of money in the middle of a severe winter storm.   By the time she was picked up, her feet were already frostbitten. “She was overcome with tears and sobs as she thanked me for listening and helping her heal,” noted Chloe.
Another man was a Katrina victim.  He and his family clung desperately to the roof of their house for days, hoping to get rescued.  His nine-year-old son could not hold on, and drowned.  He moved his family to Asheville to start over.  Shortly after beginning a new job, he was bitten by a spider. Already struggling with diabetes, he ended up losing his leg, and could no longer work.  Only in this past year, after additional serious health problems, has this man finally obtained full disability payments.
“One common thread throughout was the pain of being invisible,” said Chloe.  These people have been stripped not only of their ability to care for themselves and their family, but also their dignity, respect, and sense of value in the world.  They are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.  It has become a personal mission of Chloe’s to bring more respect and dignity to those who are suffering.  She shared this thought: “The next time you are tempted to walk around or avoid someone who is struggling, please remember… there, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.     Martin Luther King, Jr.
James and Chloe are honored to be a part of helping break through the silence of those who are struggling and living on the edge.  In addition to the September exhibit, they are teaming up with PLS for a fundraiser on September 20th at The Artery, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.  There will be a live auction, food, wine, and music by classical guitarist, James Barr. Tickets for this event are $10 per person, or $15 per couple.  Proceeds from the art sold during the September exhibit and fundraiser will be donated to PLS.
We invite you to experience this thought-provoking and compelling exhibit and find out how you can help those less fortunate. For more information about the exhibit, contact Chloe Kemp, 828.423.5852, or email chloekemp@charter.net.

 

 


Chloe Kemp is a writer and artist. She has won numerous awards for writing, editing and art direction. James Daniel is a mid-career, award-winning artist from Asheville. He draws and paints in a realistic manner, and has trained with a diverse group of master artists.

 

About Pisgah Legal Services:  For more than 33 years, PLS has provided free civil legal services to help very-low-income people meet their most basic needs and bring about significant, lasting improvements in their lives.  PLS helps people avoid homelessness, escape domestic violence, access health care, and secure subsistence income.  PLS provides services in seventeen counties of Western North Carolina. For more information about PLS, www.pisgahlegal.org, contact Betsy Fedder, 828-210-3444 or email betsy@pisgahlegal.org.
About Asheville Area Arts Council: The mission of AAAC is to unify established creative professionals and organizations into a collaborative and thriving sector, to cultivate emerging grassroots  entrepreneurs through direct financial support and access to opportunities, and to enhance the profile and visibility of our unique  culture.
The ARTERY is a multi-purpose exhibition and event facility serving as  headquarters for the Asheville Area Arts Council (AAAC), a visitor  center, classroom for a wide range of workshops and programs, display space for fine art and various crafts, rehearsal space for performing  artists and groups, and presentation space for small events. The ARTERY is located at 346 Depot Street in the River Arts District of Asheville, NC. It is open to the public Tuesday – Friday, 11 am – 6 pm and Saturday, 11 am –  4 pm. www.ashevillearts.com or
info@ashevillearts.com
Other Co-Sponsors include Appalachian Vintner, BlackBird Frame and Art, HENCO Reprographics, The Junction, The Wedge, White Duck Taco Shop.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker