Artist Kimberly Williams says her 4-year-old son takes after her. He keeps dabbing paint onto her canvases when she’s not looking.
So she was thrilled when she made her biggest sale yet — now she’d be able to get him his very own easel for Christmas.
Williams was one of the first two artists in Washington selected to participate in ArtLifting, a program that enables disabled and homeless artists to sell their work. And her participation paid off big earlier this month, when she sold an original work to a Boston corporation for $1,500.
“I just received a check. I’m looking at it. I’m just so happy,” she said. When she got the phone call, she said, she cried.
Williams gets to take home $825 from the sale. The rest goes to ArtLifting, which seeks out high-quality work from disadvantaged artists and then sells it to clients who pay well.
Williams’s work, a colorful three-panel set, is now hanging in the conference room at Creative Office Pavilion, a Boston furniture dealership, where it matches the striking orange wall.
“This particular piece was just so strong and went so well,” said Karen Van Winkle, vice president for marketing and business development at Creative Office Pavilion. She added that the work’s vivid title, “Great Balls of Fire,” also endeared it to her. “The piece is full of life.”
Williams said she painted it when she was trying to tackle her alcoholism. After 11 years of addiction, she got clean early in 2014.
“I was going through so much, and you can see how I was just basically throwing the paint,” Williams said. “The circles are representing my world and all the changes I’d been working on.”
Liz Powers, who co-founded ArtLifting, hopes that those intense, energized swirls of paint will attract the attention of clients who come to Creative Office Pavilion looking for office furniture.
“People are going in with totally blank spaces. They’re going in looking for new furniture, but it’s likely they have blank walls they need to fill, too,” she said.
Van Winkle said she wants her company to use its 25,000-square-foot furniture showroom as a display space for more ArtLifting works. Employees who guide tours of the showroom floor will make a point of mentioning ArtLifting.
Powers said ArtLifting has sold more than $10,000 worth of original works, including Williams’s piece, over the past month, thanks to a donated temporary gallery space in the Boston Design Center, where passersby can see 130 ArtLifting pieces up close. Powers said the gallery has been much more effective at selling original paintings than the Web site, where buyers usually choose prints.
At the gallery, she said, “most people who pass through don’t know about ArtLifting. They’re so impressed by the artwork, and then when they hear the stories behind it, they can’t believe it.”
For Williams, the sale capped a string of successes in the two months since she was featured in an October Washington Post article. In November, she found a job in a nail salon. Now, she said, she works six days a week, and lives with her mother in Oxon Hill rather than on the street and in shelters. She saved up enough money from her new job to buy a car.
With the check from her painting, she said, she could buy clothes for her son and Christmas gifts.
She’ll also invest in some new art supplies. She’s trying to be a savvy businesswoman — since the work she sold was a three-part piece, she’s started another one of those. And she’s mindful of her subject matter: “You know, corporations, they buy a lot of abstract art. They don’t buy paintings of people and stuff like that.”
She marveled at a photo of her work on the conference room wall in Boston. “To see it hanging in someone’s building like that — it makes me almost feel like some type of star or something. It makes me feel actually special,” she said. “Something you created is being looked at on some other side of the world. It’s like overwhelming joy.”