Skipping its traditional gala, the Coalition for the Homeless, the nation’s oldest advocacy group helping the homeless, has partnered with 51 celebrated artists to create limited-edition porcelain plates. The collectible pieces are manufactured in editions of 175 each and retail for $175 from November 16 through mid-December. According to the nonprofit, the sale of a single plate can feed 75 homeless New Yorkers. With over 59,000 homeless New Yorkers, a number projected to dramatically increase because of pandemic-related evictions and job losses, the initiative comes at a time of great need.

Michelle Hellman, curator of the Artist Plate Project, said that the team came up with a list of 51 “dream” artists—some of whom enthusiastically committed within hours of her initial ask. “There was an outpouring of love and support for the project’s concept and the simplicity of helping the neediest population in New York’s most difficult time since the Great Depression,” she explains to AD PRO.

Hellman says that while choosing one plate as a favorite is difficult to do, Elizabeth Peyton’s design, which features a couple, tugged at her heart. “During these anxiety-ridden times, the tender couple on her plate reminds me that we will get through all of this with love and compassion,” she says. Other artists whose work graces the plates include Ed Ruscha, Robert Mapplethorpe, Julian Opie, Katherine Bernhardt, and Lorna Simpson.  

Recently and not so recently, plates have come into the spotlight as canvases for artistic creativity. Global artists like the British ceramicist Polly Fern eschew tradition by debossing cartoon figures on them; Pablo Picasso was known to draw on ceramic plates. Apart from being collectibles, the Artist Plate Project’s creations are ripe to become conversation starters with family members.

Dave Giffen, executive director at Coalition for the Homeless, says that working on the initiative was terrifying, since the organization that has put together an annual fundraiser gala, ARTWALK NY, for 25 years, had to relearn how to raise money during COVID-19. “Remember, there are thousands of homeless people who are depending on us every day for food, clothing, housing, and services,” he says to AD PRO. “With so much at stake, switching to this new idea of trying to sell nearly 9,000 plates online has taken a real leap of faith.”

Giffen also notes that he has been amazed to see how committed the artists have been to fight for social justice. “I don’t think a single artist we approached said no,” he says. “In fact, their level of enthusiasm for the project has made this whole experiment a true joy to work on.”



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