Transitions homeless center has been putting art in the airport for seven years. (Photos by Noah Watson)

The Columbia Metropolitan Airport is showing its annual art exhibit of works made by homeless artists.

The artists are current and past clients of the downtown’s Transitions homeless center, which is a non-profit organization that focuses on helping homeless people get into permanent housing. 

The art from the exhibit will be taken to the Columbia Museum of Art on Oct. 19 to be auctioned at the “Reconstructing Home” fundraiser. 

The artists, who are only identified by their first names, will benefit.

“Any of the pieces that sell at the event, the clients get a commission,” said Elizabeth Igleheart, vice president of advancement for Transitions. “A couple years, we’ve had five or six different artists, and we’ve paid out over a thousand dollars in commission.”

“Reconstructing Home” is Transitions’ biggest fundraising event. It’s in a “cocktail party format” and raises money through a silent and live auction, where guests can bid on things such as golf packages, meals cooked in your home by professional chefs and the art from the airport exhibit, among other things.

Igleheart said the exhibit is a great way for the artists to feel seen.

“It’s fun to see them realize that they actually have something of value to offer people,” she said. “A lot of them haven’t felt that way for a long time, if ever.”

The exhibit is adjacent to the airport’s food court and will be up for three more weeks.

“It’s awesome to bring that part of the community in here,” said Samantha Kingsmore, marketing manager at the airport. “We’re just excited to be able to help with that initiative.”

Russell is a past client of Transitions and a featured artist in the airport exhibit. This will be his third year of making art for “Reconstructing Home.” 

He made art while at Transitions and continues to do so at his home that he moved into six months ago. Art serves as an emotional outlet for him, Russell said. 

“If I’m angry or have any type of anxiety going on, I start painting and it just goes away,” he said. “Out of my brain and onto the canvas.”

He’s prominently featured in the exhibit — almost half of the pieces are by him. 

His favorite, he said, is a painting of a sunset behind the silhouette of three trees. The trees decrease in size from left to right, symbolizing him, his wife and his daughter. 

The fundraiser is Oct. 19 at the Columbia Museum of Art. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $80 and can be purchased on Transitions’ website.

The art exhibit is located adjacent to the food court and gets natural lighting from the glass ceiling.

Russell’s journey with homelessness started during the pandemic. He had two separate stays at Transitions between 2020-2022 but now rents a home and has a steady job.

Russell, his wife and his daughter are represented in one of his paintings.