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Call for Art

Finding Home

An exhibition in partnership with the Friends of the Homer Library with support from the National Endowment for the Arts for the annual “Big Read America”

Description and Criteria

HCOA is partnering with Friends of the Homer Library to put together a show inspired by the novel The Cold Millions and based on the theme of the 2022-2023 NEA Big Read- Where we live.

 The Pacific Northwest has seen cycles of rapid development that impact the quality of life for residents. One such period was in 1909 Spokane, Washington when people struggled to find jobs that would support permanent housing. The housing crisis depicted in The Cold Millions has familiar touchstones to the housing the Homer-area faces in 2024.

This exhibitions asks creatives “What does home mean to you?” and more specifically “How do you make the Homer-area your home?”

Open to all ages and abilities

Art may be 2D or 3D with any medium of the artist’s choosing

(For works greater than 48″ x 48″ or over 80 pounds check in with gallery)

Submission Requirements

  • Title of work
  • Artist’s Name
  • Medium
  • Dimensions
  • Price (required)
  • Artist Statement
  • All sales will be split evenly between the artist, HCOA, and the Friends of the Homer Library.

Important Dates For HCOA’s Making Home Call for Art:

Submissions Open December 1st through January 20th

Drop off work to the HCOA office: January 8th- the 27th

First Friday Opening Reception: February 2nd from 5-7 pm

More to Consider

When creating work for Finding Home, artsits may consider the following questions:

Why is finding home difficult?

Is “finding home” ever a celebration?

What does it mean to make the Homer-area your home?

It may also help to explore the sub-themes of this years Big Read including:

The Environment—a community’s physical/natural surroundings
The People—a community’s ancestors and/or current members (including, for example, those who recently arrived, whose familial roots go back generations, and those who left but still feel its pull)
Industry and Culture—landmarks, work centers, traditions, and other aspects that define a community
History—aspects of the past that have influenced a community, including legends
Alternate Realities—an imagining of what a community could be or become

Friends of the Homer Public Library has scheduled events through out January and February

including skits by Pier One Theater inspired by the text, book clubs, community reads, and other events culminating with an in-person Keynote Address by the author Jess Walter.

A summary of The Cold Millions 

Before he wrote The Cold Millions, Jess Walter had always wanted to tell a story about the dawn of the 20th century in Spokane, Washington. In the early 1900s, the city was the artery for seven major railways, bringing hundreds of people to the city’s doorstep each day. As a child, Walter grew up listening to his grandfather tell stories about train-hopping: “…for a kid who grew up with Treasure Island, it sounded like stowing away on a pirate ship,” Walter remembered. “I wanted to be able to write with that sense of adventure that I remembered [from] those stories, and to make us think about homelessness and poverty in different ways, you know, the way maybe they were thought about 110 years ago” (NPR). It is that desire that animates The Cold Millions: a sweeping story about brotherhood and love, greed and hope, the dignity of work and the rise of the modern labor movement.

The last surviving members of their family, brothers Rye and Gig Dolan land in Spokane after spending a year moving “job to job, week to week, farm to farm, Washington to Oregon to Idaho” (p. 16). In the city, they dodge the grasping hands of the law and exploitative job agencies, making just enough between them to rent an enclosed porch in Little Italy and get the occasional 50-cent seat to see the vaudeville singer Ursula the Great perform, caged with a live cougar. A pensive, steady 16-year-old, Rye yearns for just two things: a reliable job and a home. His brother, Gig, on the other hand, spends his days reading worn volumes of War and Peace and agitating for workers’ rights with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

When Rye follows his brother to a free speech protest led by the IWW, they are both arrested alongside other union organizers. Rye finds himself freed from jail and meets the “redoubtable, estimable, formidable” (p. 79) Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a 19-year-old firebrand from New York—and a real historical figure—working to organize union actions across the West. Flynn sees Rye’s story as a chance to establish a face for the IWW’s fight, and launches him on a whirlwind tour of workers’ halls across Washington. In doing so, she propels him headfirst into the movement that Gig loved, even as Rye wonders what lengths he’d go, and who he’d betray, to save his brother.

Walter has described the novel as a “last-gasp Western” (BookPage): a mythic period of America captured, not in full luster, but in the fading glory of its last wild days. Cohering history with fiction, he renders tropes of the genre in meticulous detail while giving characters a chance to tell their own story: the venal sheriff, the beautiful woman with a hidden past, the jaded killer, the villain and hero caught in a standoff, the stranger who walks into town. In one chapter, the killer chafes against the ceaseless call of “the job.” In another, the sheriff forgives the man who shot him, “…prayed for his soul and mine, sorry we’d been born into such a place” (p. 317). Across the pages of The Cold Millions, Walter introduces villains who kill and save, heroes who sacrifice and betray, women who soothe and incite, families that are made and remade. “No one wins the war,” Flynn tells Rye just before she returns to New York. “Not really. I mean, we’re all going to die, right? But to win a battle now and then? What more could you want?” (p. 336).

-National Endowment for the Arts

The Dolan brothers live by their wits, jumping freight trains and lining up for day work at crooked job agencies. While sixteen-year-old Rye yearns for a steady job and a home, his dashing older brother Gig dreams of a better world, fighting alongside other union men for fair pay and decent treatment. Enter Ursula the Great, a vaudeville singer who performs with a live cougar, and who introduces the brothers to a far more dangerous creature: a powerful mining magnate who will stop at nothing to keep his wealth and his hold on Ursula.

Dubious of his brother’s idealism, Rye finds himself drawn to a fearless nineteen-year-old activist and feminist named Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, her passion sweeping him into the workers’ cause. But a storm is coming, threatening to overwhelm them all, and Rye will be forced to decide where he stands. Is it enough to win the occasional battle, even if you cannot win the war?

An intimate story of brotherhood, love, sacrifice and betrayal set against the panoramic backdrop of an early twentieth-century century America that eerily echoes our own time, The Cold Millions offers a stunning, kaleidoscopic portrait of a nation grappling with the chasm between rich and poor, between harsh realities and simple dreams. Featuring an unforgettable cast of cops and tramps, suffragists and socialists, madams and murderers, it is a powerful and moving tour de force from a “writer who has planted himself firmly in the first rank of American authors” (Boston Globe).

Learn More about the Big Read sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts

‘Pay it Forward: A winter of Big Reads at the Library’

Article written by Cheryl Illg, the coordinator for Friends of the Homer Library for Homer News

Listen to Author Jess Walters discuss ‘The Cold Millions‘ on NPR’s Fresh Air

“Community is at the heart of the NEA Big Read program, and we are excited to see how this new theme inspires applicants to explore what that means, not only by bringing a community together around a common read, but forging deeper connections between people and place.”

-Amy Stolls, NEA’s literary arts director.