Art for Life

Art in Action

Annual AIDS fundraiser becomes landmark art event

By Paula Harris

FLASH BACK 14 years ago to the first Art for Life exhibit and auction, an annual fundraiser that benefits Face to Face/Sonoma County AIDS Network. That year, a small group of artists propped their donated works up against cardboard boxes in a room in Santa Rosa’s Flamingo Hotel.

Nothing fancy–not a pedestal in sight. The event lasted one day and raised $11,000.

Flash forward to recent years, and the changes are astounding. Art for Life now spreads out over four days, offering a landmark North Bay art event that attracts artwork and attendees from across the Bay Area and beyond.

Oh, and last year it raised more than $150,000. Indeed, thus far Art for Life has raised more than $1 million for AIDS services in Sonoma County.

“This is the Face to Face fundraiser of the year. It generates money that helps us run throughout the year for items not covered by grants and federal stipulated funds,” explains Ina Chun, Face to Face’s events coordinator, who has organized Art for Life for the past five years. “This fundraiser is critical for us. It’s our lifeblood.”

The event –which this year runs Sept. 6-9–relies on the generosity of artists. Each year 250 local artists from Sonoma County and beyond donate pieces in all media for the silent auction. “The most heartfelt part for me is to see how people with relatively little give so much,” Chun says.

And even high-profile artists are getting in on the act. This year’s auction will include a three-piece set donated by internationally renowned artist Christo: “Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-76,” consisting of one lithograph and two heliogravures.

“The art is getting better,” Chun says. “We’ve had artists come in with pieces to deliver on the day, and they’ll take a look around and say, ‘You know, I think I’ll take this back and bring in a different piece!'”

Santa Rosa pastel and watercolor artist Tamra Sanchez has participated in Art for Life for six years. Before that, she worked for several years as a volunteer for Face to Face, cooking, cleaning, and “just being a friend” to AIDS victims–until she could no longer cope with the loss of lives.

“Donating my paintings helps me to feel I’m still contributing even though I’m not there for the people,” Sanchez explains, adding that she and other artists often even bid on each other’s work. “Every year I buy a piece of local art at the event,” she says.

According to Chun, Face to Face’s biggest enemy is the fact that many people believe that AIDS is no longer a crisis.

“AIDS is not going away, and infection rates are on the rise and alarmingly so in young people,” she says. “And all the complications of AIDS victims now living longer make our job much bigger and more costly and more complicated.

“The issues are still there,” she continues. “They’re just different, and there’s still lots of work to be done.”

The Art for Life exhibit runs Sept. 6-8, from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Friday; the auction takes place Sunday, Sept. 9, from 2 to 6 p.m., at the Friedman Center, 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa. Exhibit admission is free; auction admission is $50 (includes food, wine, and music). 707/544-1581.

From the August 30-September 5, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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