VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The essentials for human survival are food, water and shelter. This month, a new exhibit opened at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art that explores what shelter is, what it means to have it, and what it’s like to live without it.

“Shelter means more than a simple house,” said Heather Hakimzadeh, MOCA Senior Curator. “It means community, family, protection, nourishing the soul.”

Shelter is both a noun and a verb and now, in the Virginia MOCA, it’s an experience.

The exhibit “More Than Shelter” opened earlier this month. 11 artists explored what shelter means to them.

“I hope our visitors learn how complicated this is,” said Hakimzadeh.

As the artists created, the museum paired them with local groups that could share their perspectives. That includes StandUp for Kids Hampton Roads, which helps homeless and disconnected youth in the area.

“Homelessness is a huge issue in Hampton Roads,” said Nicole Pixler, who is the nonprofit’s executive director. “Last year alone, unduplicated, we served 1,537 youth. Homelessness is not just a youth issue, it’s an adult issue, but it’s an issue.”

StandUp for Kids was paired with artist Erica Diamond, who wanted to explore the challenges LGBTQ+ youth and teens face regarding shelter.

“She really wanted to have this conversation about who is hidden, who’s seen, how much can be revealed, how safe they feel in revealing who they are, and so her works reflect that,” said Hakimzadeh.

Diamond’s work brought Pixler’s experiences to life.

“The blanket reminds me of the shelter rooms and how some kids come into the shelter with absolutely nothing and a simple blanket could change their lives,” said Pixler. “Sometimes kids come to us with just a backpack and all of their belongings, everything they have, is in that one backpack.”

As people look at the blanket, hoodie and backpack that Diamond created, Pixler hopes it creates motivation and action.

“We want everyone to know that this is a need here. It’s a need here, it’s a need everywhere, but locally we’re so thankful that MOCA wanted to partner with us to bring awareness to the fact that there’s a need for shelter and a safe place for the LGBTQ + community,” said Pixler.

You can learn more about the exhibit by clicking here. You can learn more about StandUp for Kids Hampton Roads by clicking here.