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Art for Empty Walls

Local gallery collects art for the needy.

What makes a home a home? Is it the furniture or maybe the carpets? Is it the toys and gizmos scattered around or maybe it's the food in the kitchen? To Linda Chiaramonte of Art Unlimited in Springfield, the answer is the art on the walls.

"Art is the kind of thing that makes a house a home," Chiaramonte said.

This is the reason why Art Unlimited along with its sister gallery, Old Mill Gallery in Alexandria, are collecting framed artwork to donate to Carpenter's Homeless Shelter and Housing and Community Services of Northern Virginia (HCSNV). Both of these nonprofit organizations provide shelter for the homeless and help homeless families find housing.

Anyone can donate framed artwork through Aug. 20, at Art Unlimited or the Old Mill Gallery. Those who donate artwork will receive a $50 gift certificate toward any framing or new artwork purchase over $200 dollars. Tax receipts and letters will also be issued by the organizations for each donation.

"It is exciting that someone in the community wanted to help us in a unique way," said Fran Becker, the executive director of Carpenter's Homeless Shelter.

Kim Monti, executive director at HCSNV, said that any art will be appreciated. "Usually, when people have donated anything at all, we have no problem getting it out to the clients," Monti said.

Chiaramonte warns though that the artwork needs to be of a respectable quality. "We aren't taking junk," she said. "We already have an oil and some larger art. Some people are going to bring some photographs that are nicely mounted and framed too."

Chiaramonte, who has been helping her husband George with the galleries for over three decades, first came up with the idea for the art donations when she visited the Greenwich Workshop for a conference. She thought it was a great idea that had not been attempted in the area. So when she got back she started working at setting up the program. So far she has sent out over 2,500 letters to her clients asking for donations and the art has already started to come in.

HCSNV is an organization established to provide housing counseling and case management services to help individuals and families develop, monitor and evaluate goals that stabilize their housing situations. In addition to these housing services, HCSNV offers community outreach programs in order to educate the area about housing issues.

"Our goal is to make sure that people stay in a residence," said Monti of HCSNV's work. "I think a lot of our clients are dealing with making ends meet and paying the bills. The artwork will provide a lot of comfort for them. It will allow them to go home to a house where the walls aren't empty."

Carpenter's Homeless Shelter is not just a shelter for the homeless to stay in. The organization provides free case management services through five interrelated programs: a daytime drop-in shelter, an overnight hypothermia shelter, a temporary residential shelter, an aftercare program for shelter graduates living in the community and transitional housing apartment units. The art donated to Carpenter's Shelter will not only go to those moving into new homes but will also be used to decorate the shelter itself.

"What we intend to do is brighten up our rooms here at the shelter," said Becker "We make every effort to make our shelters as home like as possible and certainly artwork leads to that development."