We’ve all become familiar with the Houston Food Bank and other institutions that provide food in times of crisis or just for those in need.
What about a table to put that food on? What do you do when you are starting over from scratch?
Houston Furniture Bank to the rescue!
I spoke to Claire Drennan Jarvis, an occasional vendor at the First Saturday Arts Market who is the communications and development director at Houston Furniture Bank.
What does this have to do with art? Plenty.
For 27 years, Houston Furniture Bank has been providing furniture assistance to the Houston community. Located in the Hobby Airport area, the distribution center at the furniture bank connects families in transition with the essential furniture they need.
“This spring, Houston Furniture Bank added to its services the Houston Furniture Bank Gallery from which families receiving furniture assistance are now able to select original artwork, free of charge,” Jarvis said. “The goal is to help families in transition to personalize their homes by selecting original art that speaks to them. The Houston Furniture Bank Gallery makes original art accessible to families in need.”
The gallery was made possible through the support from local artist April Strahan, another regular at the First Saturday market who donated the funds needed to install a modular gallery hanging system. This system allows the art to be displayed in a gallery setting so that Houston Furniture Bank clients can see how the work will look on their walls.
What has the response been from clients?
“Those receiving art from the gallery have been so enthusiastic about selecting art for their homes,” Jarvis said. “A number of clients have become overwhelmed when selecting their art. They are moved by the generosity of the artists who have given their work to help them start over. Many families have not had the opportunity to own original artwork before and are excited to show their families the artwork they have selected.”
Jarvis said the furniture bank serves families affected by disasters, domestic violence, homelessness, poverty and many other challenges.
“For these families, selecting an original work of art is a part of their path toward stability, with some much-needed help from the community,” Jarvis said. “Houston is so rich in beautiful art and talented artists. We are so excited to be sharing this resource with the families we serve.”
Designated as an essential service, Houston Furniture Bank and the gallery addition have been in operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping families and individuals such as a woman named Cynthia, who Jarvis identified only by her first name.
“When Cynthia visited Houston Furniture Bank, she selected the essential furniture she needed for her new apartment,” Jarvis said. “At the end of her appointment, we explained that she could select some original art. She could not believe it! Cynthia took great pleasure in selecting a painting by April Strahan. She became emotional (and said) ‘I am so blessed.’ ”
Speaking with Cynthia by phone, Jarvis learned that she is staying in comfortably.
“I feel so blessed,” Cynthia said, “coming from being homeless to having my own place.”
The painting that she chose is her favorite color blue. When Cynthia feels stressed, she likes to sit in her favorite chair, from which she can see her painting.
“When I look at the paintings, I think of the ocean and it relaxes me,” she said.
Originally from New Orleans, Cynthia recalled how she used to bike around the city and enjoy the art. When asked why giving art is meaningful, she responded enthusiastically.
“I love art,” she said. “It lifts people up. I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am. I cherish it.”
An opening for the new gallery has been postponed as it was scheduled just days after the stay at home, work safe order was issued in March by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. Each painting includes a card with details about the work and artist, given to the recipient.
The Houston Furniture Bank Gallery is located within the Furniture Outlet. Families receiving assistance will be able to select art during their appointments. Members of the public will also be able to purchase discounted furniture and the artwork at the retail price with all proceeds going to support Houston Furniture Bank.
Art can be dropped off at the furniture back from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday at 8220 Mosley Rd. For more information, email email@example.com, call 713-842-9771 or visit houstonfurniturebank.org.
*Artists interested in donating, find details on this page > https://houstonfurniturebank.org/art-gallery/
Cohen is an artist and founder of the First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com.