Tuesday, May 24 , 2016, 5:09 pm | A Few Clouds 65º

Santa Barbara Museum of Art Benefit May be Off The Wall But There’s a Method to the Madness

Amid a zany atmosphere, sold-out Women’s Board fundraiser has artists’ prized works taken right from the walls by jubilant bidders

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety |

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art Women’s Board hosted an artist reception Friday night and the ever-popular Off The Wall fundraiser Saturday, bringing together art enthusiasts from all over Santa Barbara County to benefit the museum and its programs.

The Off The Wall fundraiser, established five years ago by the Women’s Board continues to flourish in popularity due to a talented lineup of regional artists. This year, 132 artists donated unique artwork for the fundraiser and special sneak peak that were both held at the Ridley-Tree Education Center.

During the artist reception, event co-chairwoman Diane McQuarie gave a heartfelt thanks to all the artists who donated their work.

“Thank you for creating a totally amazing show that everyone is talking about,” McQuarie said. “Because of the quality of the art and because so many artists participated this year, we’ve had lots of buzz about the event and, for the first time ever, Off The Wall is sold out.

“Every penny we raise goes directly to the museum; it helps with the acquisitions, kids programs and exhibitions.”

Larry Feinberg, the museum’s Robert and Mercedes Eichholz director and chief executive officer, also expressed his gratitude, thanking the participants for donating artwork despite the artist taxation laws that are currently in place for freelance artists.

“I realize because the tax laws changed some years ago that you can’t even deduct your work for their real market value; you can only deduct the cost of the material, which is terrible,” Feinberg said. “I know you all gave your work as an act of love. You are not only helping the museum but you are helping the community.”

On Saturday night, the gallery overflowed with a sold-out crowd of newcomers and returning participants eager to partake in a delightful game of chance and luck as they surveyed pieces from an array of artwork that lined the walls. The display included colorful modern paintings and collages, drawings, ceramics, sculptures and photography.

The fundraiser admits two people and entitles the ticket holder to one work of art as names are drawn randomly and guests select a work of art “off the wall” to take home.

Women’s Board member and emcee Cecia Hess welcomed the crowd before introducing gallery owner and fellow OTW participating artist Ralph Waterhouse, who returned to host a live auction.

The live auction provided guests with the option to bid for the first, second and third pick of artwork.

Diane McQuarie and Paul Wilson were the auction winners, bidding $2,300 for the privilege. They selected a piece by Rafael Gaete entitled, “56 Colors (The Lines Behind Series).” Christine and Tom Frisina were the runner-up auction winners, bidding $2,000 and selecting “Say the Word” by Michele Zuzalek. And third place in the auction went to Bill Bonds and Lauren Nelson with a $1,700 bid and the selection of Karen Chin’s “Ostentatiously Awaiting.”

Following the live auction was a main drawing, in which each name chosen had 30 seconds to call out the number assigned to the artwork of his or her choice.

Participants in the audience ran from elation to disappointment as highly sought-after pieces were obtained and taken away by another guest, with new choices being made on the fly.

From the scores of satisfied expressions on guest faces, however, it was clear that the event was another success. All in attendance had a marvelous time, thanks to the goodwill and commitment of the Women’s Board.

Established in 1951 and celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the board is made up of more than 100 members dedicated to enhancing, preserving and promoting the arts by sponsoring fundraising events for Santa Barbara Museum of Art exhibitions.

Over the years, the board has donated or provided funds for the purchase of art for the museum’s permanent collection and has unwritten numerous exhibitions.

The board also provides direct financial support for several museum education programs, including Art in Motion since 2001, in collaboration with Storyteller Children’s Center and jointly sponsored with the City of Santa Barbara Housing Authority. The program provides hands-on creative art opportunities for homeless or at-risk children and their families.

Another educational program that the Women’s Board supports is the Homework/Artwork After School, which provides free homework and art activities to students from local elementary schools.

Funds raised at the event benefited the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, a nonprofit institution that presents internationally recognized collections and exhibits with a broad array of cultural and educational activities, programs and travel opportunities.

The spirit of the weekend was summed up by board member and contributing artist, Karen Chin.

“I am honored to be a member of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art Women’s Board and to co-chair the 2014 Off The Wall fundraiser, as well as being a contributing artist,” she said. “I am proud to be among so may accomplished and talented people. The Off The Wall event helps to further the museum’s mission to integrate art into the lives of people.”

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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