Kyle and Nina Clemente started the Art 4 the Heart program in 2011 after volunteering for several years at homeless shelters. (Wendy Clemente)

Two pieces of art hang on white walls. In one, a boat sails into a sunset sky streaked with purple and red tones. The other is a still life of a turnip.

This isn’t an art museum. It’s the apartment of 49-year-old David Green, who recently found a permanent home after living in homelessness on and off for 13 years. The two paintings on his wall are two of the few possessions he has to call his own.

Green received the art as a donation from Art 4 the Heart, an organization that helps people transitioning out of homelessness by giving them artwork to decorate their new homes.

Washington’s Nina Clemente, 17, and her brother Kyle, 15, started Art 4 the Heart in 2011, when she was 13 and he was 11. Having grown up volunteering in homeless shelters, they saw how hard it was for people to adjust to a new living situation without many personal belongings to help make it feel like home.

Art 4 the Heart partners with Bethesda Cares, an organization that helps set up permanent housing for people who are living on the street. Art 4 the Heart offers art donated by local students to each person placed in a home by Bethesda Cares.

David Green, who was homeless off and on for nearly 13 years, received two pieces of art when he moved into permanent housing in Wheaton. (Mark Babiak)

“It’s a simple act of kindness delivered from one human being to another,” said John Mendez, director of outreach for Bethesda Cares.

Nina, who has a passion for art, chose to focus on providing clients with children’s and teens’ artwork.

“It’s really creative, and they use a lot of bright colors, which bring joy,” she said.

Each time a piece is donated, the artist gets a photo and description of the recipient to demonstrate the impact the artwork has had on another person’s life.

“It’s important to give back to your community,” Nina said. “And if you have a gift such as being an amazing artist, why not use your talent to create change in the world?”

The artwork provides a personal touch to an otherwise unfamiliar home.

“The art elevates the mood in their new living space,” Mendez said.

Normally the possessions of people living on the street consist of personal-care items, food and other necessities.

“It’s one of the most important possessions,” Mendez said of the art. “Before they move in, their possessions are about survival.”

These people have to relearn how to live in a permanent home. The artwork helps with that transition by giving them something they probably wouldn’t be able to keep on the street.

“Out there on the street, you would hide a bag and come back and it would be gone,” Green said.

Green is now happily settling into his Wheaton apartment, with two pieces of art on the walls.

“All of them looked good, but I went with the two that meant the most to me,” he said. Since he worked most of his life as a cook, he chose a food-related painting. “It makes it look more homey.”

Sarah Polus

Learn more!

If you’d like to donate your artwork to
Art 4 the Heart, have a parent go to www.art4theheart.info/submit-art.

Only 8 1/2 -by-11-inch or 11-by-14-inch artwork will be accepted without a frame. Artwork submitted with a frame can be any size. Canvases of all sizes will be accepted and don’t need frames.