Lifestyle

Benevolent repercussions of a simple gift

Art of Giving sale gives shoppers more options to help the world

Make many hearts happy with one gesture this season. Or two.

“The Giving of Art — The Art of Giving” is an art sale organized by

11 Whidbey Island artists who wish to emphasize the ability to make a difference both locally and globally with the giving of art.

The sale opens Friday, Dec. 14 and runs through Sunday, Dec. 16 in the Front Room gallery in the Bayview Cash Store.

The artists are making one-of-a-kind pieces specifically for holiday gift giving while also raising funds for two carefully selected charities, Operation: Sack Lunch and Children’s House International.

A percentage of all the artists’ proceeds will go to the organizations.

Artists and artisans participating in the sale include Tohnia Alexander, handmade soaps in lovely Scott Alexander wooden boxes; Maryon Attwood, functional ceramics, sunflower-tiles and platters; Adriana Gallagher, comment-worthy felted wool scarves; Elizabeth Haughton, mixed-metal jewelry; Robbie Lobell, soda/wood-fired and award-winning pottery; Sarena Mann, figurative papier maché mobiles; Barbara Stout, Taoist inspired works on paper; Tree Top Bakers, delicious holiday baked-goods; Michel Tsouris, small encaustic paintings and “ridiculous chicken paintings” and Jane Winslow, visual photographic poems.

Beverly Graham is a recording artist who started Operation: Sack Lunch to feed the working poor and homeless on the streets of Seattle.

The program has served more than 1.3 million meals since 1989 and currently serves 18,000 meals each month in the Seattle area.

Graham and her crew have been successfully providing dignity, care and compassion to a downtrodden population for almost two decades and she is intent on showing by example that each person can make a difference in the world.

As a Whidbey Islander who will perform at the Friday night opening reception of the sale, Graham and Operation: Sack Lunch bring a true unembellished meaning to the words “the art of giving.”

Soap maker Tohnia Alexander not only adds her special line of handmade soaps to the sale, but offers the big-hearted graciousness of a woman blessed with a newly adopted child.

Alexander and her husband, artist Scott Alexander, have recently become the proud parents of 14-month-old Mestawot Adugna, an Ethiopian orphan whose first name means “a mirror image of her country and ancestors” while Adugna means “blessing.”

Both meanings of her name have guided the Alexanders in their approach to the adoption of Mestawot (pronounced mess-stout) and their dedication to the country where she was born.

Through the Children’s House International organization, the Alexanders were able to make a difference that seems small to some, but which Tohnia said is larger than it looks.

“I have seen the work of Children’s House International and the Adera Child and Family Support Association,” Alexander said. “I have met its people and have seen their humanitarian efforts, and I am forever moved.”

As a continent ravaged by AIDS, poverty and war, it is estimated that by

2010, Africa will have 42 million orphans, with 20 million in Ethiopia alone; the highest percentage of orphans in Africa.

“Their situation is so out of hand, and although just a few of us in the Western industrialized nations throw out these lifelines — infinitesimal, compared to the colossal millions that are in need — we are all still making a difference and every one of us is saving a life, no matter how small the figures,” Alexander said.

So when artist-organizers Michel Tsouris and Elizabeth Haughton offered to make Children’s House International the non-local organization of choice to benefit from the Art of Giving sale, Tohnia was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Saying goodbye when they were leaving Ethiopia with Mestawot was not easy, she explained.

She recalled her conversation with Abdissa Benti, an Ethiopian Country Representative who was the Alexanders’ liaison for the adoption and whom they came to know as “brother.”

“We told everyone that we would bring Mestawot back to visit in the nearest possible future,” Alexander said.

“But, do you promise?” Benti had said as they were leaving.

They said they did indeed promise.

“You know, a promise is a promise,” he said.

“We promise, Abdissa.”

And with his eyes closed he let out a sigh.

“Ahhhh, the promise,” Benti said.

It struck Tohnia as a moment she would never forget, and one that feeds her motivation to continue to make a difference, no matter how small, in the lives of the millions of orphaned children in need.

These are the experiences that have prompted “The Giving of Art — The Art of Giving” sale which reaches beyond the exchange of presents on Christmas day and seeks to connect one artist’s creation to those in need both close to home and far away.

One artist states it this way: “We make a juicy little painting, we sell it to our neighbor for an affordable price, he gives it to his friend as a present.”

But it doesn’t stop there.

That transaction provides a week of meals for a Seattle man and sends one distant child to school for a year, buys supplies and medicine and perhaps may even prompt potential parents to adopt an orphaned child.

“The Giving of Art — The Art of Giving” opens with a reception from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14 in the Front Room gallery. There will be a musical performance from Graham as well as food and refreshments.

The sale continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15 and Sunday, Dec. 16.

A drawing will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday with $5 tickets or five tickets for $20. Entrants can win one-of-a-kind artwork, including a Elizabeth Haughton ring worth $2,000, paintings, ceramics, photographs and even a night on the town and dinner for two, all for just a $5 donation.

To find out more about Operation: Sack Lunch visit www.opsacklunch.org. To find out more about Children’s House International visit www.childrenshouseinternational.com.

Patricia Duff can be reached at 221-5300 or pduff@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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