Isabel Emmert-Nolte, a senior at Hellgate High, said she didn't think a project required for her International Baccalaureate program diploma would amount to much, but an online art auction she organized to benefit the Poverello Center has already received the support of numerous local artists and businesses.
With much of the Pov's event-based fundraising canceled due to COVID-19, Emmert-Nolte began researching options for online fundraising with the homeless shelter in mind.
"I knew that I wanted to help people with the most immediate needs given that people experiencing homelessness are the people most affected by the pandemic," she said.
Emmert-Nolte's “Art for Shelter” auction features 43 works by both Emmert-Nolte's friends and classmates and established Missoula artists. Proceeds from the auction will support the Poverello Center’s Emergency Shelter program, with the exception of one painting. That painting, the "Portrait of George Floyd" by Tess Grant, a Hellgate senior, will go toward anti-racist training at the Pov.
Bidding is open for the auction, which can be found at thepoverellocenter.org/artforshelter.
The auction will close at 7 p.m. on Aug. 22. Works by the budding teenage artists are on display at the Frame of Mind gallery, and adult artists' work in the auction can be viewed at Montgomery Distillery.
"This is really important and we need the funds," said Jesse Jaeger, director of Advocacy and Development at the Poverello Center. "It's summer but we're really thinking about winter right now at the Pov and making sure that we get up the capacity so that when winter hits, we're not put in the position of having to choose between people freezing to death outside or catching COVID inside. That's the conversation we're having right now at the Pov."
A list of items the Pov currently needs is also on the shelter's website.
The Poverello Center has had to cut its shelter capacity by 30% to allow for proper social distancing, leading to an increase in the number of people living unsheltered in Missoula. Meanwhile, Jaeger said there are more newly homeless people, with some who have lost their housing because of the pandemic.
Jaeger said he's worried the number of newly homeless residents who have lost their housing or can't make rent due to COVID-19 could increase in the near future.
"We have a drastic housing shortage in Missoula and what we're hearing a lot from Realtors and people in the real estate business is that there's a lot of people moving in from out of state," he said. "We don't have numbers on this yet but our fear is that housing that was once rental housing might get taken off the the rental market and get sold and that would exacerbate issues that are already here."
Artists and businesses were overwhelmingly happy to help with the project, Emmert-Nolte said.
Amy Doty, the owner of Frame of Mind, said she has worked with the Pov in the past and also tries to support young artists through her gallery by hosting events such as art shows for Hellgate high school students.
"We really try to give to the community as much as possible in any way we can," Doty said. "And we also are really big supporters of encouraging young artists to go further with their art."
The auction includes four impressive pieces by Emmert-Nolte, though she said she has not taken art classes before. The paintings feature a watercolor base with marker and pencil adding fine details.
Emmert-Nolte said the inspiration for her work varies, but noted that many artists choose social justice causes to be the subject of their pieces as a way to connect the viewer with the cause they're supporting.
"I just think that it's one of the best ways to connect with people," she said. "I don't think any other way is really as effective."