Art as a Political Force

Local artists raise money for Obama campaign
Entrance to Saturday's Obama fundraiser.

Entrance to Saturday's fundraiser.

If you’re an artist who’s passionate about politics, and you’re looking to contribute in a concrete way to the presidential campaign, what do you do?

That was the question six local artists kicked around this summer. They’d been meeting as a critique group, but “being a bunch of liberal Democrats, we’d been talking politics, too,” says Leslie Sobel. As for that question, she says, “Well, the obvious answer is to sell art.”

So sell art they did. Saturday night’s Obama Art-O-Rama fundraiser featured a silent auction of donated work from more than 80 local artists. The event was held at the Ann Arbor home of Carl Rinne and Tamara Real, executive director of the Arts Alliance. Before a single piece of art had been sold, they were already halfway to their goal of $10,000. (An update from Sobel came a bit after midnight – their total reached $10,500 for the evening.)

Supporters of Barack Obama streamed into the Fountain Street neighborhood, quickly filling all three levels of the renovated 1907 former church. Each guest paid a $25 entrance fee – an amount they could apply to their bid on art – then entered the house to roam through the rooms, check out the art on display, buy Obama T-shirts or decals, nosh and drink and chat with other Obama supporters while listening to the Pete Siers trio and, later in the evening, a set by guitarist Dick Siegel.

Martha Ceccio and Leslie Sobel check in guests for the Obama Art-O-Rama.

Martha Ceccio and Leslie Sobel check in guests for the Obama Art-O-Rama.

The original group of six – Sobel, Lynda Cole, Connie Cronenwett, Martha Ceccio, Candace Pappas and Betty Schwartz – had been joined by artists Pat Truzzi and Madeleine Vallier to form the core group of organizers. They used their own networks as well as the local Obama campaign website to publicize the event. As word got out, people jumped on board to contribute art or volunteer in other ways.

“It just had an energy of its own,” Sobel says.

Not surprisingly, the area’s creative community was well represented. Local artist Margaret Parker, chair of the city’s Commission on Art in Public Places, had donated a piece of her work, and praised both the artists who organized the event as well as Tamara Real. Parker described Real as “one of the columns who holds up the arts community in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.”

Bill Worzel – Sobel’s husband and CEO of Genetics Squared – served as MC for the evening. Among the more than 200 people who attended were Eileen Spring, executive director of Food Gatherers, and Stephen Rapundalo, Ann Arbor city council member and president of the trade group MichBio.

Tamara Real talks to a guest at Saturday's Obama Art-O-Rama.

Tamara Real talks to a guest at Saturday's event, hosted at her Fountain Street home.

Here’s a list of other artists who contributed their work for the fundraiser: Paul Hickman, Debbie Golden, Lois Lovejoy, Anne Kirvan, Barbara Goodsitt, Barbara Brown, Judy Spike, Joan Plohr, Marge Pacer, Corinne Vivian, Jim and Angie George, Annette Baron, Carol Morris, Michelle Hegyi, Christy Kelly Bengten, Marsi and Bill Parker Darwin, Adrienne Kaplan, Kate Tremel, Norma Penchasky Glasser, Jon Wilson, IB Remson, Royce Disbrow, Ava Gilzow, Victoria Schon, Esther Kirschenbaum, Laurie Wechter, Tammy Bourque, Dorothy Eshelman, Janet Gallup, Karen Gallup, Liz Brauer, Jean Lau, Beth Colaner-Kenney, Paul Malbeauf, Ryan Forrey, Gail Rucker, Betsy Emrich, Jaye Schlesinger, Jayna Eckler, Ethel Potts, Susan Moran, Ilona Brustad, Anne Savage, Chris Savage, Michael Andes, Kent Walton, Idelle Hammond-Sass, Laura Strowe, Jill Love, Joy Shannon, Janet Kellman, Rebecca Lambers, Carol Furtado, Michael Rodemer, Julie Fremuth, Joan Rosenblum, John Savistsky and Donna Novack.

The Obama Art-O-Rama was held in this Fountain Street home, a former church.

The Obama Art-O-Rama was held in this Fountain Street home, a former church.

Obama supporters were elbow-to-elbow at Saturday's fundraiser.

Obama supporters were elbow-to-elbow at Saturday's fundraiser.

One Comment

  1. October 17, 2008 at 10:09 pm | permalink

    Our thanks to Carl and Tamara, even from those of us who missed the ‘do.’ I wonder what McCain supporters do along these lines? Maybe view old Betty Boop cartoons?