Walk into the new exhibit on homelessness at the History Museum at the Castle in downtown Appleton and the large photo you see is by a man named Del. Turn the corner, and Del stares back at you in a larger-than-life portrait, his face painted and topped by a fuzzy red and black hat that appears to be a pretty permanent fixture. The photo caption quotes him explaining the paint: “Pharaohs do it, women do it, Indians do it, why can’t I?”
Del is one of the faces of homelessness on display in “(In)visible: Homelessness in Appleton,” an exhibit that opened April 29. He lives in an Appleton-area motel — not physically homeless, but half a step away from it. Curator Nick Hoffman said the exhibit of photos taken by 15 homeless or near-homeless people adds the human side to the statistical picture painted by Project RUSH, a collaborative survey of homelessness conducted in April 2015 by 125 volunteers who interviewed 600 people.
For three months, Del shot photos of his daily life using a camera given to him as part of the museum’s project, done in collaboration with four area homeless advocacy nonprofits. Grants of $15,000 from the Arts and Culture Partnership grant program, $5,000 from the Robert Dohr and Lilas Dohr Current Community Needs Fund within the Community Foundation supported the exhibit. Grants of $30,000 from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership and $18,000 from Community Foundation discretionary grant money supported Project RUSH.
The exhibit features more than 150 photos. A traveling version of the exhibit, made possible by a $6,000 grant from the Mielke Family Foundation, is available free to display in schools, libraries and other public places for two to three weeks. Contact Hoffman at [email protected] or 920-735-9370 Ext. 112. Also involved in the project were Homeless Connections, COTS, Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities and the Fox Valley Warming Shelter.