Arts Prescott Annual Holiday Party

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Event# 928-776-7717

Event Details

Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery invites Penny's Purses to show their work and sell it to benefit The Prescott Area Women’s Shelter (PAWS). Penny’s Purses is a group of local women who donate their time and considerable artistic skills to design, sew, bead, and sell uniquely created purses. All of the materials and beads are donated - nothing is purchased. The purses are available for sale during the Arts Prescott Annual Holiday Fundraiser which runs one full month starting in November and 100% of the proceeds are donated to the Prescott Area Women's Shelter - Prescott's year round shelter for women and their children. Arts Prescott holds a non-for-profit fundraiser each year for a local organization. All 24 local artists at the gallery vote on the non-profit of their choice and the decision is made at one of their monthly meetings. The resent article written in Prescott Woman helped the members make their decision for PAWS.

The purses are created in honor of Penny, a homeless woman who stayed at Prescott's first temporary women's shelter in the winter of 2008. Penny's wish was to have a safe place to stay at night. Penny created purses from scraps of colorful material and adorned them with beads, watch faces, buttons, and anything else she could scrabble together to adorn her colorful creations. Sitting on the women's shelter bed, on a park bench, or in the library, Penny carefully sewed each stitch to make fashionable purses to sell to local antique stores. We are sure that Penny would be pleased to know that there is a year round safe place for homeless women in Prescott now. Even today many local businesses remember Penny coming in to sell her purses. The organization found several of these original purses created by Penny and bought them all from the antique shops - and collects them even today. They display these original purses made by Penny at each showing.

The money collected from the sale of the Penny’s Purses Group has helped to provide the women's shelter with many necessities, including lockers at the bottom of each bed (the lockers were crafted by woodworkers from the Yavapai College woodworking program who donated all of their work), bookcases, tables and chairs for the community room, help with rent when needed. The needs of the shelter vary month to month and they always appreciate a call to find out what their needs are.

Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery artists are active community members and each year during the holiday season, in addition to displaying their own work, they showcase a local non-profit organization for a month in the gallery to help raise funds and contribute to our town. A reception will be held at the gallery on November 25, 2011 to introduce gallery visitors to the women who are Penny's Purses. Purses will be available to purchase at the gallery. Arts Prescott will also celebrate their Annual Holiday Party on the same evening - so be sure and mark your calendar for The Gallery Fundraiser and Party.


Much about Penny remains a mystery. She would not discuss her personal life. She had mental issues. But she was much more than the homeless woman who appeared each evening at Prescott’s temporary women’s shelter in the winter of 2008.

We know that she was talkative, sometimes argumentative and often entertaining. She enjoyed telling stories about herself: especially about her career in New York in Fashion. Nothing specific, just Fashion with a capital F. She had an eye for designer clothes and searched through the donated bags of clothing at the shelter for designer labels – sharing some of her finds with other women guests and volunteers at the shelter. “This vest is YOU, my dear,” she declared to a volunteer who took a special interest in Penny.

If you saw Penny downtown during the day, often in a coffee shop, it would not be apparent that she was homeless. A character - yes, but homeless - no. Dressed stylishly, her makeup carefully applied to her tanned and weathered face each morning before leaving the shelter, a scarf stylishly tossed around her shoulders, she was one of a number of characters in our beloved Prescott.

After the shelter closed in early spring 2008, Penny was often housed in motels provided by various charitable groups and caring individuals in Prescott. She tended to alienate some of those who might have given her more assistance. She wondered out loud “why can’t there be a safe place for a woman like me, just a room so I won’t have to wonder where I’ll sleep tonight.” She spoke of being in extreme pain but could not get the treatment she insisted she needed. She went downhill quickly in health and vitality and died later that same spring. The coroner’s report said she was riddled with cancer. She was in her mid-50s. She was buried in Potter’s Field in Prescott.

This is, however, not the end of Penny’s story.

One thing we know for certain is that Penny was an artist. She created art from remnants of tapestries and costume jewelry. She had no access to a sewing machine or to a room where she could create her art. She sewed every stitch by hand and created unique and lovely purses decorated with colorful beads and bangles.

After her death, a volunteer who befriended Penny happened upon an antique store in downtown Prescott. Penny’s purses were on display and for sale. The store owner knew Penny and told of several occasions when, after hours, Penny would bang on the store’s front door shouting, “I know you’re in there. Open up. I’ve got purses for you and I need money.” The store owner accepted them and Penny went on her way.

Five of Penny’s Purses have been purchased from the antique store by women who want to make sure that Penny’s Purses live on to help other homeless women. Volunteers will be meeting at the shelter to make purses that are in the spirit of the original Penny’s Purses and to encourage current guests at the shelter to participate. All proceeds will be contributed to the women’s shelter.

Continuing to create purses in her honor and memory will ensure that Penny’s spirit lives on to help current and future women guests at the shelter. We are sure that Penny would be pleased to know that there is now a safe place for women each night

Arts Prescott Annual Holiday Party

Address : Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery, 134 S. Montezuma Street Prescott AZ
Phone : 928-776-7717   (Always call and confirm events.)

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