By Kelly Stephens
Bonner Community Scholars teamed up with the Trenton Community A-Team and HomeFront's ArtSpace on April 15 to support artists that have or who are currently experiencing homelessness in an art sale comprising more than 50 artworks. The sale was located in the lobby of the Social Sciences building.
A-Team, which supports artists who have experienced or who are currently experiencing homelessness, and HomeFront — which supports women, children and families — provided students with 22 artworks that consisted of much bigger pieces and a little over 30 smaller artworks, respectively.
Pricing for the various artworks ranged from $5 to well into the hundreds, with the proceeds from the sale going directly to the artists.
Some artists even made an appearance at the art sale to describe their artwork to viewers and generally answer any questions that potential buyers might have about what is being displayed.
The art sale was a time for students at the College, artists and other patrons to come together to celebrate beautiful works of art.
Like many other important events, the art sale had been pushed back due to the pandemic for the previous three years, preventing Bonner students from helping out, other students and faculty from purchasing the art and artists from earning the money to support themselves.
Hannah Keyes, a senior urban elementary education and psychology double major, was excited to finally be a part of the planning process and help restore the art sale to its former glory.
“When I was a freshman, I was introduced to the art sale but I couldn’t take a big role in it because I was a freshman,” Keyes said. “And because of COVID, we weren't able to continue doing it. So this year, since we're back in person, I really wanted to help bring it back because it hasn't been done in three years.”
Keyes, like many other Bonner Community Scholars, was determined to help bring the art sale back and to provide exposure to so many of the artists that have benefitted from the art sale in the past.
Zion Lee, a junior biology major and the site leader of the Streetlight Team, which is a newspaper that centers around raising awareness about homelessness and food insecurity in the Mercer County area, served as a coordinator for the art sale.
Lee aided in coordinating by contacting both the A-Team and HomeFront's ArtSpace and working with coordinators for both organizations to compile the number of pieces received, create an inventory, pick up that inventory and make sure that everything was in place in preparation for the sale.
Lee’s main goal for the art sale was to help the artists gain the exposure they deserve.
“The artists always look forward to this because this helps them reach out to the College,” Lee said. “And it does boost sales. In that aspect, they are benefiting from the direct monetary exchange and then they're getting the exposure, their art is out there.”
Lee pointed out that even if the artist in question is not making a sale, word spreads around quickly and allows them to get exposure due to the tight-knit community that exists within Mercer County and in the surrounding area.
“What's great about the art sale is that they [the artists] get the money that they deserve for their art,” Keyes said. “Everything is priced a certain way for a reason, it was up to the discretion of artists. So they get a profit from their hard work like any of us would if we made art.”
As an assistant to the art sale, junior chemistry and biology double major Samielle Taylor also believed that the work that the art sale had accomplished was wonderful. Taylor’s job had been to share information about A-Team, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen and HomeFront, and show patrons the art. She has also enjoyed seeing that the artists can find outlets for expression regardless of their circumstances.
“People who are struggling with food instability and homelessness, or who are unhoused, can express themselves and find a therapeutic outlet in artistic expression,” Taylor said.
Sophomore marketing major Abby Duff, who had also been in rotation at the art sale sharing information to passersby, also values how many people showed up to the art sale in support.
“I’m so impressed with how many people are coming, and how ArtSpace has provided us with almost everything that they gave us, and I think that’s cool and exciting,” Duff said. “Also, some of those paintings hang up on the wall at TASK [Trenton Area Soup Kitchen] when they’re not here.”
Camila Guayasamin, a sophomore women and gender studies major, was a customer at the art sale and found it extremely fascinating.
“It was a chill, welcoming experience,” Guayasamin said. “I think it’s empowering to see that the artists are outreaching to more people, and you can see the passion in the artwork.”
For Lee, one of the most important things that the sale can accomplish is the support of local artists and small businesses. Lee said the event is a testament to the ability of people to produce artwork despite adversity.
“I think building that community and raising awareness about homelessness and food insecurity is very important because oftentimes people will take that for granted,” Lee said. “Art is a beautiful thing. People argue that art is not a necessity, but I think that art is a part of being human. And being able to help share the passions of others, and showcase the hard work that other people have done, even despite adversity.”
“I think that's one of the greatest things that exemplify what it means to be human," he said. "And I'm just very grateful to be able to have this space and this opportunity to showcase all the hard work that’s here for today.”