One of the works of art in an upcoming show at Infinity Room that aims to elevate voices of people experiencing homelessness. (Courtesy/ Emilee Kerper)

Emilee Kerper spent last weekend handing out paints and canvases to youth experiencing homelessness at HOST, a Salem drop-in center.  

Kerper said there was some hesitation from the young people at HOST because she was an outsider.  

But once they were able to get comfortable and understand the benefit of creating and connecting, she said there was more interest than it first appeared. 

It was the first of several events where she’s hoping to collect art for an upcoming show at music and comedy venue Infinity Room called, “Art for Equity: Elevating voices from our unsheltered neighbors.”  

The goal is for artists to finish their work during the events. Kerper is hosting another event at River Road City Park and also has plans to coordinate with Union Gospel Mission. She said the cool thing about having artists finish onsite is there’s a therapeutic benefit from doing art in community.  

So far, a lot of the art she’s collected features bold and simple geometric patterns. 

The art show is part of Kerper’s final project for her master’s degree at Pacific University in Forest Grove.  

“It was an opportunity to dive in and see what I could to do get involved and connect,” she said. 

Kerper has curated monthly art shows at Infinity Room downtown and The Space in west Salem before that for years.  

She said art is a powerful tool for communicating and connecting people.  

Kerper hopes the show will help the general public understand what life is like for people experiencing homelessness. 

“Making spaces for the general community to see what these members of the unsheltered community are creating prioritizes their voices and their needs,” she said. "I think that's something they really need to hear and know right now, is that they’re cared about and we want to help, we want to participate.” 

Part of the money from art sales will go toward buying more art supplies to keep the project going. She said she would donate additional money to Free Fridge Salem and its Soup Squad project, which serves hot meals in city parks. 

Kerper will hang the art on March 31. There will be a brief presentation about the project on April 1 at 5:30 p.m. at 210 Liberty St. S.E. Suite 150 during the First Friday Art Walk. 

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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