Finding home

The Friends of the Homer Library and Homer Council on the Arts are cohosting an exhibit

Homer Council on the Arts and Friends of the Homer Library have partnered to host an exhibit around the theme of “Finding Home,” inspired by the novel “The Cold Millions” by Jess Walter and based on the 2022-2023 National Endowment for the Arts Big Read theme, “Where we live.”

“We chose ‘The Cold Millions’ because many of the themes within this book are relevant then and now to events happening not only in Spokane, Washington, the book’s primary setting, but also in Alaska and throughout our country,” said Cheryl Illg, FHL coordinator. “Through this NEA Big Read and related events, we want to include a creative way to discuss the housing issues of 1910 Spokane and make a connection with Homer’s current issues with housing.”

FHLand HCOA see the housing crisis depicted in “The Cold Millions” as having familiar touchstones to the housing issues the Homer area is facing.

“Housing is always an incredibly important topic, but emerging from a pandemic where there was a huge shift to working from home, people became much more active and engaged in making ‘home’ and finding more stable living situations,” said Jenna Gerrety, HCOA marketing assistant. “This has been complicated by the rise of short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBOs, plus skyrocketing rental and housing costs. As a community it is important that we think about how our housing availability affects the type of community we want to create and how we can make housing more affordable for residents while making space to welcome new residents and seasonal workers. It is also important to think about what makes Homer a great place to call home, why we want to live here, and how we can improve and make our homes suit our needs.”

The mission of Friends of the Homer Library is to provide volunteer support for library programs and services, raise funds that enrich the library experience and promote the use and enjoyment of the library. FHL initiated this exhibit partnership while applying for a grant from NEA and Arts Midwest for Homer’s next Big Read.

Founded in 1975, HCOA believes that the arts are for everyone and serves the community by creating space and opportunities for people and innovative ideas to come together and by spurring inspiration by offering performances, exhibitions and arts education for all ages and abilities and through community partnerships like this one.

“In partnering with the Friends of the Homer Public Library for the Big Read, we want to engage the community in conversation, encouraging folks who may have never thought of themselves as artists to communicate visually,” Gerrety said. “By joining the conversation and utilizing this platform, folks can reach beyond their individual circles and communicate with a broader audience.”

Previous NEA Big Read events shared locally and intended to promote conversation have included “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant” by Roz Chast in 2019; “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” and “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder in 2017; “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury in 2015; and “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien in 2013.

“NEA Big Read selects 15 titles for organization to choose from and the FHL board reads and reviews the list of books and then selects a title they believe our community will connect with and that will inspire conversations and engagement,” Illg said.

The Homer Big Read 2024 will focus on the early 20th-century history of the Northwest and Alaska, including the treatment of women, Indigenous peoples, the working poor and free speech. Over a six-week period in January and February 2024, the community will be invited to participate in book clubs and events that promote curiosity, conversation, and engagement with the book, the library, and the community. The Big Read will begin with a kickoff featuring skits inspired by the text and performed by Pier One Theatre, and will culminate with an in-person keynote address by the author Jess Walter.

“By hosting a dynamic community read of the novel ‘The Cold Millions,’ we hope to promote conversation, curiosity, and engagement with the book, the library and the southern Kenai Peninsula community,” Illg said.

The FHL 2024 NEA Big Read kickoff will take place on Jan. 19 at Alice’s Champagne Palace.

“There will be a live band, several copies of ‘The Cold Millions’ as well as companions titles ‘The Big Both Ways’ by Alaskan author John Straley and ‘Wobblies!: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World’,” Illg said.

This kickoff will be an opportunity for community members to learn more about the numerous events taking place in January and February all across the lower Kenai Peninsula. For those who would like to read these books now, copies of all are available for checkout at the Homer Public Library and for purchase at the Homer Bookstore.

Friends and HCOA invite community members of all ages and abilities to submit up to three works for “Finding Home” in 2D or 3D and in any medium. To inspire ideas, they ask community members to consider the following:

What does home mean to you?

Why is finding home difficult?

Is finding home ever a celebration?

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

They also suggest exploring 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; and

Alternate Realities: an imagining of what a community could be or become

“Through the ‘Finding Home’ exhibit we hope to spark connections,” Gerrety said. “By taking something we’ve read, connecting that to our lived experiences and then translating our thoughts to visual media, we grow a deeper basis of understanding and ability to communicate topics clearly. Homer Council on the Arts and Friends of the Homer Public Library are both organizations that work to engage and support community. This collaboration is an excellent opportunity to support each other, encouraging education, reading and visual expression.”

Gerrety said that community members don’t need to think of themselves as an artist in order to make art of participate in an art call like this one.

“This is a topic that impacts everyone and we encourage any community members who have struggled with housing or have particular ideas about what makes a place a home to participate,” she said. “All artwork is a visual representation of our ideas. It doesn’t need to be perfect and it doesn’t need to be beautiful to communicate and have an impact on the conversation. “

The “Finding Home” artwork submission form can be found online at or in person at HCOA, 355 W Pioneer Avenue, which is open Tuesday through Saturday, 1-5 p.m. For works with dimensions greater than 48-inches-by-48-inches or over 80 pounds, please check in with gallery.

All work must be for sale and sales will be split evenly between the artist, HCOA and FHL.

This open call for art runs through Jan. 20. Work may be dropped off at HCOA between Jan. 8-27. “Finding Home” will open with a reception on Friday, Feb. 2 from 5-7 p.m. Contact HCOA with any questions at 907-235-4288.