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Edward Barta

Edward Barta of the culture committee at Billings First Church catalog art for the church's upcoming fundraiser for Spare Change for Real Change on Friday, September 21, 2018. The silent auction and art sale will begin during the Friday, October 5 Artwalk.

If you’ve been itching for an original Sheila Miles, now's your chance. The senior curator at Yellowstone Art Museum from 1986-1990, Miles now lives in Santa Fe, but her works are found across Montana. A surrealist painting of hers is one of several originals donated to Spare Change for Real Change, an organization working to alleviate poverty and addiction in downtown Billings.

About 30 pieces of art, including a signed, limited edition print by Kevin Red Star and landscape photography by Edward Barta, will be up for auction during ArtWalk at Billings First Church, 310 N. 27th.

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Edward Barta and Cynthia Crist

Edward Barta, left, and Cynthia Crist of the culture committee at Billings First Church catalog art for the church's upcoming fundraiser for Spare Change for Real Change, including this original painting by Sheila Miles. The silent auction and art sale will begin during the Friday, October 5 Artwalk.

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First Church fundraiser

A photograph by Edward Barta is among the pieces donated to the Billings First Church's upcoming fundraiser for Spare Change for Real Change on Friday, September 21, 2018. The silent auction and art sale will begin during the Friday, October 5 Artwalk.

Barta is one of the organizers prepping the works. He’s been photographing landscapes for 40 years, and utilizes a 4x5 field camera and still handprints his photographs in a darkroom. He’s got his eye on a watercolor of Edinburgh, Scotland. “My wife and I went there on our honeymoon,” he said. Art will be available at a “buy now” price, or buyers feeling risky can take part in a silent auction, which will close on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 2 p.m., and the top bidders will be notified.

“It will be a pretty broad spectrum of prices,” Barta said. “There is art here for people with a limited budget, and art for people who are serious collectors.”

Cynthia Crist, who is on the culture committee at the church, said the organization came up with the idea to tie into the ArtWalk, which takes place Friday. “We want to be a part of what is going on in downtown Billings,” Crist said.

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First Church fundraiser

A large painting of a horse is among the pieces donated to the Billings First Church's upcoming fundraiser for Spare Change for Real Change on Friday, September 21, 2018. The silent auction and art sale will begin during the Friday, October 5 Artwalk.

All proceeds will be given to Spare Change for Real Change to help get people with chronic inebriation issues off the street and into a rehabilitation programs.

“We’ve been here a long time, and it does seem like the responsible thing to do,” Crist said.

Spare Change for Real Change funds the Motivated Addiction Alternative Program. Josiah Hugs, a resource outreach coordinator with MAAP, works directly with people struggling with addiction on the streets, connecting them with resources to assist in the process. Spare Change for Real Change funds this position.

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Community Innovations committee

Resource Outreach Coordinator Josiah Hugs speaks to the Community Innovations coalition in this June 2017 file photo. Because of jail overcrowding, the Motivated Addiction Alternative Program designed to get more people into treatment is not working out as well as law enforcement and treatment providers hoped it would. 

Hugs himself is in recovery.

“I understand being in addiction,” he said. “You lose all hope — especially when you are on the streets and heavy in your addiction. You have no hope for a better tomorrow.”

Hugs has also started a Talking Circle at Billings First Church, which he describes as a Native American take on Alcoholics Anonymous. The Talking Circle has grown to nine meetings a week.

“Everyone is invited; everyone is welcome that is fighting any abuses or addictions,” Hugs said.

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First Church fundraiser

A painting by Pamela Gustafson is among the pieces donated to the Billings First Church's upcoming fundraiser for Spare Change for Real Change on Friday, September 21, 2018. The silent auction and art sale will begin during the Friday, October 5 Artwalk.

Spare Change for Real Change, which has been around since 2014, hosts an annual 5K Run in April, and is also reliant upon donations, collection meters, grants, and city funding to operate. Billings First Church’s Culture Committee hopes that this type of art-driven fundraiser will inspire other downtown churches and organizations to do similar events, and organizers plan to make this an annual event.

“Judging by what we have here, it’s pretty obvious that they didn’t just donate something that was gathering dust,” said Barta. “We have some pretty sweet stuff here.”

Donations of art came from the community at large and members of the church, and the group is still accepting donations of new and previously enjoyed art, which can be dropped off through Friday, Sept. 28, at Billings First Church.

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Arts and Entertainment Reporter

Arts & Entertainment Reporter at The Billings Gazette.