By chris conrad
ASHLAND — The TC Chevrolet showroom was turned into a fine art gallery Thursday night as the “Pictures of Hope” photographs snapped by local kids living in homeless shelters were placed on display.
The artists filed into the showroom with their parents to catch their first glimpses of their work, which was displayed on canvas boards and greeting cards.
Among them was 8-year-old Melysa Randall’s shot of a Medford apartment complex that featured stone masonry and a green roof. The picture was accompanied by a sentence statement from Melysa that read: “My dream is to be safe.”
Derek DeBoer, manager of TC Chevrolet, and Linda Solomon, the Detroit-based photojournalist who created the “Pictures of Hope” program, crowded around Melysa’s photo, debating its meaning.
The artist herself said her ultimate dream is to be safe at her parents’ home. Her parents had a clue to the picture’s meaning.
“She’s very artistic and just has a certain way about her that’s different,” said Carry Randall, Melysa’s mother.
Randall then said their family recently lost their home when Melysa’s father, Chris Randall, lost his construction job.
The Randalls had to move into the Salvation Army shelter to get back on their feet. Carry Randall believes the upheaval had an effect on Melysa’s sense of safety and stability.
Solomon said she started the project to build self-esteem among children forced to live in homeless shelters with their families.
The kids are given disposable cameras and then sent off into their communities to put images to their hopes and dreams, Solomon said.
The images are then recreated on the greeting cards and a single canvas recreation, which is then sold. The proceeds go to the Salvation Army’s Hope House.
One of the photographs showed the entrance to Southern Oregon University. Below it was the caption reading, “My dream is to go to college.”
Solomon said the desire for education is common in the cities she’s visited.
Meanwhile, Cieara Gairson posed for pictures beside her snapshot of a large dog poking its head out of a pickup bed.
Cieara, 7, said her hope is for people not to hurt animals. This came as no surprise to her mother.
“I knew for a fact hers would be about animals,” said Jerrah Roley. “She wants to get a job helping animals.”
Capt. Martin Cooper, who is in charge of the local Salvation Army, said he was honored that Solomon hosted the program at the local shelter. He said the exhibit can educate the public about the effect homelessness has on children.
“It’s interesting when you see through the eyes of a child,” he said.
Solomon toured the exhibit, stopping to speak with the kids about their work. Her stay in Ashland would be brief. She is scheduled to host “Pictures of Hope” in seven cities across the country over the next few weeks.
“I thought the kids here did such a beautiful job,” Solomon said. “It’s not easy to capture your hopes and dreams with a camera, but they did it.”
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.