GREAT FALLS — The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people with a lot of extra time on their hands, while sheltering at home. Choteau artist Leslie Kesler planned to use that time to paint, but she also had a desire to help. So, she thought of a way she could do both.
“I had several paintings, and I knew after the pandemic started that food pantries could be facing some problems,” Kesler said. “So, I decided to take a few paintings and put them on Facebook and tell anyone that wanted them that they could buy them for $50 and I would donate it to the food pantry of their choice.”
The idea caught on quickly, and the paintings sold within minutes. “So I put a few more up and the same thing happened,” she said. “And then right after that I started getting some artists calling and saying ‘Hey that’s a cool idea. I’d like to do something like that too.’”
From there, Kesler and Ennis artist Cathy Toot brainstormed ideas to expand on this fundraiser. They created a Facebook page called Painting For The Pantry, where artists can sell paintings for $50, and the proceeds would be donated to food bank or pantry of their choice.
And from there, the ball started rolling much faster. “That was like two weeks ago and right now we have 30 artists and we’ve made $7,500,” Kesler said. “It’s gone really beyond our expectations, and the money has gone to food pantries all over the state. We have artists from Ennis, Red Lodge, Sheridan, Billings, and quite a few around the Choteau, Fairfield, Great Falls area.”
The artists range from seasoned professionals, to weekend hobbyists. But they’ve all gotten behind the cause, and buyers have as well.
“We just have sat back amazed. I have to sit on this computer all day, we’ll post a painting and within minutes, it’s sold,” Kesler said. “There are times I post a painting and I don’t even get my hands off the computer before it’s sold. I think people are looking for ways to help during this pandemic. This way they can give $50, it goes to a pantry of their choice and they also get an original piece of art with it.”
The program works like this: Artists complete their work, price them at $50, and post them on the “Painting for the Pantry” Facebook page. Buyers comment on photos of the artwork they’d like to purchase send their checks to the artist, made out to the food pantry of their choice. Buyers are also instructed to send a separate check for $7 to the artist to cover the cost of shipping the painting. The artist then gives the buyer’s check to their local food pantry or charitable organization.
Kesler said the goal is to raise $10,000 for Montana food pantries. Currently there are a lot more buyers than there are available paintings, so Kesler welcomes any artists who want to take up the cause.
For more information, click here to visit the Facebook page.