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Arts & Culture

Big Need Inspires San Antonio Artist To Do Something Small

A "For The Taking" box in Southtown.
Ethel Shipton
A "For The Taking" box in Southtown.

The coronavirus crisis recently inspired a San Antonio artist to build something practical to help any neighbors in need. 

Like most of us, Ethel Shipton has kept her eyes and ears open through the COVID-19 pandemic. One image in particular, she said, just haunted her.   

"That devastating picture that made the New York Times and the national news of people waiting in line for the Food Bank,” she said. “Some people had been waiting in line since 10 o'clock the night before."

As job losses soar across the country, more people are seeking food assistance. A sea of cars lined up Friday for groceries from the San Antonio Food Bank in Texas.
Credit ADREES LATIF | REUTERS
As job losses soar across the country, more people are seeking food assistance. A sea of cars lined up for groceries from the San Antonio Food Bank in Texas.

And so she suddenly had a brainstorm, lifting from the little free library concept.

"You know they have those library boxes that have been around for a long time, so that people can take a book and leave a book? Same concept, but with a food box," Shipton said.

She didn't see it as a fix for people in need, but just as something to add to the mix of what others are doing. 

"It might help a few people. It's not a Food Bank but maybe it's a stop-gap for a few people, or at least one night a week for somebody," she said.

The one she created is not an amazingly constructed piece of art. In this case, form follows function.

"I just made it out of scrap wood at my studio,” Shipton said. “This is a no-brainer. All I need is a screwdriver or a screw gun and a couple of screws."

Ethel Shipton with a face mask she made of a print of an art piece of hers.
Credit Ethel Shipton
Ethel Shipton with a face mask she made of a print of an art piece of hers.

She decided to call the box "For The Taking," and it's mounted at Stieren and South St. Mary's streets in Southtown. She wants you to remember that this art has an interactive component.

"Hopefully what happens is that people understand that they can 'take' but other people can also 'bring' who can afford to do that,” she said. “It's very funny; people leave at least one can. We're never absolutely empty."  

Shipton said she has an additional one built if you have a location for it. And she's ready to build more.

"I'm happy to make boxes for people if they're interested in having them," she said.

Shipton says you can contact her on Facebook. She hopes that just as free libraries nourish peoples' souls, perhaps these food boxes can nourish their bodies.    

Jack Morgan can be reached at Jack@TPR.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii.

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