Students sell art to buy new shoes for the homeless

Thirty pairs of shoes decorated by art students at Nottingham Trent University are being auctioned to help buy new footwear for the homeless.

Students from BA (Hons) Fine Art at the university’s School of Art & Design have individually decorated pairs of white canvas shoes using paints, sculpture and ceramics to raise funds.

The project was the idea of 70-year-old student Gill Howell-Jones, who will present new pairs of shoes to residents at Emmanuel House on 31 March, which will be paid for with the takings.

The new shoes are being donated to the homeless in exchange for their old footwear which Gill will use as the centrepiece of her final degree show.

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She said: “I’m exploring the issues surrounding homelessness in my final show, so I’d really like to collect used shoes from the homeless and give back new ones in exchange.

“I’m hoping we can auction thirty pairs of decorated shoes, which will help me to buy more pairs and also give a choice to those who will receive them. It’s important that I can offer a choice as those who are disadvantaged are not always given that luxury.”

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Working with Emmanuel House – a support centre for homeless and vulnerable adults – she has been spent time at the centre hearing the stories of individuals to find out what life is like for those on the streets.

Denis Tully, Chief Executive of Emmanuel House, said: “Gill’s idea of decorating shoes is a brilliant way to highlight this issue. At Emmanuel House, shoes and feet are often the focus of need and care in helping someone take the next step out of homelessness and into settlement. I appreciate greatly, the time and dedication of everyone involved.”

Gill, who is in her final year at the university, will graduate in July some fifty years after she first applied to the former Nottingham College of Art, which is now part of the university’s School of Art & Design.

In 1963, she was offered a place to study art, but turned it down when she was persuaded that it was not a suitable career path to follow.

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After retiring from a career in social work – which is the source of inspiration for her artwork – she applied to study art again, this time accepting the offer and undertaking a three-year course.

She said: “It’s funny to think that I’ve come full circle back to the university I first applied to. Working in an environment with young artists has been interesting as well as a new challenge, but it has been great to work in a creative environment where everyone supports each other regardless of age.”

The decorated shoes will be on display at a pop-up gallery at 18 West End Arcade, which has been provided free of charge thanks to the landlord.

The gallery welcomes the public to view the shoes, with silent bidding open until 18 March between 12 pm and 5 pm.