Organizing a Community Event, Art for Food Gatherers

ircle of Art is a community effort - a grass roots project originated among friends that has taken on an organic life of its own.  In its 9th year, the event has raised over $120,000 up to this point.  

We came up with the idea as we sat around the lunch table at my friends' frame shop one December day in 2004, discussing the huge tsunami in Southeast Asia and how to help folks half a world away.  It had just come to light that the money folks were donating through different relief agencies wasn't necessarily getting to the folks who needed it.  So we put our heads together and decided that, living in Michigan and feeling the recession before the RECESSION, there were plenty of folks who needed help right here, and we looked to Food  Gatherers as the beneficiary of our efforts.  We started a massive effort to connect with our artist friends via email and US post (this was pre-Facebook), not just in Michigan, but around the US.  We thought, "Let's just see how this world wide web thing works for this."  Before we knew it, small pieces of art were coming in and we had the nearly 360 pieces of art we aimed to have for the silent auction!

We were so humbled by the generosity of artists and the over 200 folks who came to the Gala Party and the $8,000 we raised that first year.  There were cool stories of people being generous who had grown up on food stamps, themselves, and were now in a position to give back.  

s a matter of fact, every year there has been a cool story or 2 at Circle of Art.  Some folks are exhibiting work for the first time, some folks have made their art in recovery for severe physical injuries, some are well-established artists who could sell their pieces for hundreds of dollars, but donate it instead. And some are 7 year-olds, unable to give money to help with hunger relief, but able to donate art that raises the money to help kids like them have food on their tables.

This community effort is so powerful, it's hard to put words on the whole experience.  Businesses and private supporters donate tents, port-a-johns, bottled water, other beverages, food, raffle items and printing.  

think the most powerful thing about Circle of Art is that, as individuals, none of us involved could donate the amount we've raised, in our entire lifetimes, but together, among friends, we've made such a positive difference in our community and beyond and worked hard, but had a blast doing it.