ONLY ON 3: Hart Gallery gives hope and opportunity to homeless and disabled artists
The "Hart Gallery" is a non-profit organization, offering classes for "one of a kind" artists in downtown Chattanooga.
The gallery gives homeless artists and also artists with mental and physical disabilities a safe place to get creative. At the end of the day, each piece of art is put up for sale. About 60 percent the proceeds go directly to the artist, while the rest goes toward the costs of supplies. Artists tell Channel 3, these classes are changing their lives one painting at a time.
LEARN MORE | Hart Gallery website
"I'm painting a building off of Mccallie and Highland Park, between McCallie and Holtzclaw Avenue," said artist Bill Sera.
You can find artist Bill Sera inside of the Hart Gallery each week, working hard on his latest masterpiece. Diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, he dreams big on each canvas.
"I feel like a movie director directing a film because being an art student like this is like being in a Hollywood film studio," said Sera.
Founder Ellen Heavilon opens her doors to everyone, no matter their circumstance.
"Our mission is to offer hope and opportunity," said Ellen Heavilon. " We just remind them that they have worth, sometimes we forget."
The walls of the Hart Gallery studio not only showcase the artist but real life experiences. Each painting has a unique backstory.
"I got hit by a car and I was out there and wanted to do something," said Artist Dennis Williams. " Every time I got to do anything, people kept telling me I was too slow because of my left hand and my left leg."
Dennis Williams suffered a traumatic brain injury at age 9, which left him with nerve and growth damage to the left side of his body. He was in a 28-day coma, during which he was resuscitated three times. After a long recovery, he had to learn how to walk and speak again.
"They asked for a cat and I'm still trying to draw a cat," said Williams. " You know them cats ain't turning out right, but I'm doing my best."
With each artwork he masters, Williams begins to believe in himself.
"I'm learning I can do lots with my disabilities and stuff," said Williams. "If people just gave me a chance and work with me."
Artist Jessica Johnson was born deaf but has a natural talent, she uses her art to communicate with the world.
"They helped me when I ain't have nowhere else to go," said George Monds.
Homeless for 10 years, George Monds is now living in low-income housing. He says the Hart Gallery was his new beginning and second chance at life.
"Without the Hart Gallery, my heart would be broken," said George Monds.
Disabled artists say this gallery gives them a place to find love and friendship in each other.
With each stroke of the paintbrush, together they can create and believe in a better tomorrow.
"Being able to be with each other and to support each other when we're down," said Heavilon. "To me, that's the most important."
It's okay to be different," said Sera. " You don't have to be like everybody else. When you're in an art world, just be you."
Artists say they've been busy making handmade Christmas cards and ornaments for the holidays, you can also find handmade jewelry and clothing in the store located at 110 East Main Street in Chattanooga.