BY KRIS LARSON
Ahh, community. Ours is a great one to be sure. This Event City of ours plays host to many incredible events and supports many amazing causes over the course of every year. Every so often, however, something happens that merges a few things into one. In the business world people call this a win win scenario, but in the case of the Warmth of Community Art Project it is far more than that.
Tina Haffeman, president of the board of the Day by Day warming Shelter calls this project a ‘miracle of community’. The shelter is that sort of miracle on it’s own, and this project certainly serves as an extension of it. Combining the efforts of local artists, The Oshkosh Gallery Walk, and The Oshkosh Farmer’s Market along with the viewers of the art, purchasers of the art and the monetary benefit to the shelter is truly an event that benefits individuals and our community as a whole. Over 200 artists, ages 8 to 80, painted (many canvases are also created with other materials such as wire, fabric, wood or glass) are created in a six by six canvas and these small canvases are assembled into a massive collage. The public unveiling of this massive work will take place during the June 7 Gallery Walk in the front window of Kitz and Pfeil. Individual canvases will be sold throughout the summer at the Oshkosh Farmer’s Market for $25, and may also be purchased at Art Haus and Kitz and Pfeil during regular business hours. After July 21, the collage will be dismantled, and the squares will be distributed at random to those who have made a donation. Each piece comes with a statement from the artist.
The Day by Day Warming Shelter was founded in 2011. It is an emergency warming shelter offering shelter to those who have no other sheltering options during our coldest months (operating mid-October to mid-April). The shelter offers safety, warmth and two meals a day to those in need, as well as laundry, shower facilities, medical assessments, AA meetings, monthly haircuts and computer and literacy support. Day by Day is staffed year round with the Executive Director & paid support staff in the areas of volunteer, finance, media & grant support. Seasonal shelter staff includes Operation & Assistant Operations Manager & numerous front line lead & support overnight staff. Since its opening there have been over 500 volunteers that also support the mission of the shelter. The Shelter is a vital resource to our city, for our city and by our city, so it is by no means a stretch for it to be described as a miracle indeed.
To quote Tina again: “A Community of Artists has come together to create a community piece of art to be purchased by community donors to support our community shelter. It’s a beautiful project from every view”.
The shelter began because there had been a long time gap in sheltering services in our community. Day by Day was the answer to that gap. In 3 seasons since its opening we have served over 354 individuals. Our capacity at the shelter began at 20 beds per night and after a few short weeks of opening were already at capacity. We added 5 “overflow” beds the last 2 seasons. We are at or near capacity most evenings. Multiple times in the past 3 seasons upon reaching capacity, we have had to turn people away. My hope is that we never have to turn those most in need away due to space issues. Each season we provide over 2,000 nights of shelter and serve over 5,000 meals. With the brutal cold this past winter, we extended hours and provided a record number of nights of shelter and meals. The community provides all the evening home cooked meals each night of the 6 month season! Another miracle of community! We also expanded our hours from opening at 8pm to opening at 6pm offering 14 hours of safety during the season. With the increase in hours we are also able to provide additional resources to our guests. Our experience has been that the number of those in need of shelter and number of days they need shelter are increasing. We have grown and worked diligently to meet the growing need.
In my humble and completely biased opinion, the reason why you should support this amazing project for the shelter is simple; it is the Right thing to do! This is “our” community, yours and mine. It is diverse in many ways and diversity is good. We learn by being aware there are differences among us and those differences should be embraced; including those that may not be like us. Everyone has a place here and has a story. Every human being deserves to have their basic needs met. It is our responsibility as a community to care for each other! The “least of these” that we provide basic comfort for deserve our concern and care. This is the most important thing we provide for our guests! They need and appreciate the roof over their heads, the warm bed, the homemade meal, the breakfast and other items we can provide, but what they are most amazed at is the level of respect, dignity and genuine concern they receive by everyone when they enter the doors of our humble shelter. The look on their faces and the joy in their hearts make every struggle running a nonprofit worth it. We listen, we care, and we give a hand up! This is the reason we exist. We are a community within a community. We are grateful to be the miracle for those coming to us for help.
Another reason to support this event is to bring awareness and appreciation to the multitude of creative talents our community is blessed with. Styles, designs and ages are diverse in this community project .There is something to please everyone.
We are grateful to all the artists and supporters who been so very generous of this project. Come see for yourself, this feast for your eyes, learn more about the shelter and the work we do and enjoy this wonderful community we all call home!!!
To learn more about the shelter, please visit the website or like us on Facebook! Thank you Oshkosh community for supporting us and helping us to be the miracle for those who need us most!
Special thanks to: Elli Wollangk and Shelly Ingala at Oshkosh Fine Arts Association, Jim Staples at Kitz and Pfeil, Jim Evans at Art Haus and Todd Gerhardt. ν
Kris Larson is co-owner of Beckets Restaurant and is actively involved in many community programs, including the Oshkosh Gallery Walk, the Oshkosh Music Artist Series, and more. A strong supporter of local independent media, Kris writes 2-3 articles per year for the Oshkosh Scene.
Warmth of Community Art photos by Jennifer Newlin, www.jennifernewlinphoto.com