VOL. 126 | NO. 28 | Thursday, February 10, 2011
By Aisling Maki
Memphis artist Mary Long Postal is frequently asked to donate her work to raise funds for worthy causes.
But as a survivor of child abuse, she finds it especially important to support Saturday’s Works of Heart Valentine Auction at Memphis College of Art, benefiting the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.
“There are all kinds of really worthy causes to donate art to in Memphis, but this one, for me in particular, is important because I’m the product of a home where there was abuse, and I really think it’s important that these resources are available to people,” she said. “When I was growing up in the ‘70s, it was just something no one talked about, and it would have to be pretty flagrant for any intervention to occur.”
Last year, the popular annual event netted about $60,000, and while roughly 10 percent paid for overhead costs, the remainder helped fund the comprehensive services MCAC provides for children who are victims of sexual and severe physical abuse.
“The money raised helps pay for everything from therapy to community education for the prevention of abuse, to all the services we provide on site to help the children,” said Beryl Wight, community relations associate for MCAC, which houses police officers, health care professionals and DCS workers on site. “We are very good stewards of the money we raise, which is 40 percent public and 60 percent private.”
Wight said intake numbers continue to increase each year. Last year, the center, which also provides services for children’s siblings and caregivers, handled about 1,100 cases of abuse.
To support MCAC, more than 100 artists – including Tim Andrews, Tootsie Bell, Fred Burton, Karen Capps, Kristi Duckworth, George Hunt and David Mah – have donated their pieces to be auctioned starting at 7 p.m. Saturday during the 19th Annual Works of Heart event.
“There are many very loyal, steadfast folks who give to us and do beautiful pieces each year,” said MCAC development associate Laura Terry.
Although the works, which range from $25 to in the thousands and include paintings, sculptures, pottery and jewelry, are mostly created by local artists, several pieces have come from as far away as New York and Colorado.
A committee meets in September to review artist submissions. Then each chosen artist is given a 12-by-12-inch wooden heart for inspiration. Many find creative ways to incorporate the heart into their piece, and almost all featured artwork is heart-themed.
“It’s amazing to see what these artists can do with a wooden heart,” said Wight. “Many of them do use the heart, and the places they go with it – the ingenuity and creativity – is just amazing.”
Postal and her husband, artist Jonathan Postal, choose to create their piece together.
“The Valentine’s heart theme is much so fun,” she said. “Jonathan and I work on the projects together and it’s kind of ooey-gooey romantic. We like collaborating.”
The event works like a silent auction, except it’s anything but silent. The excitement mounts when the evening’s emcee, in this case WMC-TV anchor Joe Birch, rings a cow bell to indicate the impending closing of one of the auction’s three sections. Bidders scurry to stake their claims, often sparking a bid-off, which is facilitated by a trained, feather boa-wearing volunteer called a heart hawker, who holds a mini-auction right there.
“It’s such a great event, especially in the doldrums of winter,” Mary Long Postal said. “Socially it’s a blast. The artists are there and the buyers are there and you get to see the people queuing up to try to bid. It’s a good time.”
Mary Long Postal said she loves the fact that artists are included in the Works of Heart event.
“There are a lot of things we’re asked to donate to, and this was actually one we can participate in where they give us tickets to attend,” she said. “I like to be a part of it. I don’t like donating artwork to something where I’ll never see the inside of the event.”
The auction is one of MCAC’s two main annual fundraisers; the other is the annual Chefs’ Celebrity Gala. And like the gala, Terry said the success of Works of Heart is the result of a caring and philanthropic community.
Tickets to Works of Heart are $50 and are available online at memphiscac.org. VIP tickets, which include a commemorative artist gift, a souvenir T-shirt, concierge, complimentary cocktails, coat check, private restroom and more, are available for $200.
The public is invited to visit the exhibit for free through Friday during business hours. MCAC volunteers will be on hand to assist interested bidders with registration and early and absentee bidding.