During renovations prior to opening the Art Garage, owner Kate Gaar learned that a homeless person had been squatting in the empty garage space. The person left behind a pandhandling sign that intrigued and saddened her. She kept it and then collected more by purchasing them from people she encountered on street corners. Gaar considered the signs a form of emotive art that could elicit laughter, heartbreak or outrage, and when she met Barbara "B.B." St. Roman, the concept for the book, Flying Signs, took shape.
St. Roman is president of the nonprofit Crescent City Outreach, the sole source of money for the New Orleans Pollice Department's Homeless Assistance Unit. Funds donated to the organization go directly to the care of New Orleans' itinerant population. They turned to French Quarter businesses, and businesses in other places where homeless people pandhandle, to sponsor publication of the sign collection. Proceeds from the book go to Crescent City Outreach. The first printing sold out immediately, and Gaar hopes the second edition will bring in more revenue for the nonprofit.
The Art Garage hosts a party on Saturday, Nov. 19, when the books will be available for $20, and vendors will donate a portion of their sales to charitable organizations of their choice.
"The situation [of the homeless] is critical at this point," Gaar says. "Society needs to take care of each other [and] it starts with the community."