SALT LAKE CITY — It had all the makings of a gallery opening, more than 100 pieces of visual art to peruse and finger foods to nibble.
It was hardly a typical Friday at the Road Home's Palmer Court.
Not only were residents of the apartment complex for former chronically homeless families and individuals invited to enjoy paintings, photographs and pen drawings, each household was allowed to select a piece of artwork as their own.
"We want to celebrate their transition to housing," said Felicia Baca, visual arts program manager for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.
The 112 pieces of artwork offered to Palmer Court residents were left by artists at competitions and traveling exhibitions over the years and have become part of the state's extensive art collection, Baca said. After years of attempting to contact artists to ask them pick up their art, the works were deemed surplus.
Palmer Court resident Stephen Walker selected a posterized photograph of an elephant. "I'm not a Republican but it looked good," he said.
The gift of art "is fantastic. I'll be able to leave a lasting memory when I leave," he said.
Gary Malm selected a historical sketch of a mortuary on South Temple.
"I love it! I'll take it," he said.
Baca said it was touching to hear the reasons that people select one piece of art over another.
One woman selected artwork depicting a church that reminded her life in Mexico.
Another woman, who has very limited sight, picked a painting of a barn. She held the work close to her face. "Tell me what it looks like," she asked Baca.
"I tried my best to describe the barn and a bird in the picture," Baca said.
It apparently struck her fancy because she took it home with her.
Kenneth Ellington, who was among the first residents to move into Palmer Court 5 ½ years ago, selected a painting depicting changes in leaves from spring, summer to fall.
Ellington said he was in and out of homelessness for 10 years before moving into Palmer Court. He's now employed in a program sponsored by Easter Seals and works hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
"It's like the changing seasons we go through sometimes," he said of his painting.
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