The poster for this year’s ArtAID showcases the silhouette of a dancer and a boldly colored phoenix. It’s a fitting symbol as the signature fundraising event that raises money for the AIDS service organization Positive Directions experiences a rebirth of sorts. Planet Hair announced in April that it would retire from producing the event after nearly 20 years of involvement, making change and transformation the ethos for ArtAID 2013.
The premier party and art gathering has been split into two nights. A live art auction and an upscale cocktail soiree will take place on Wednesday, followed by a fashion show, silent art auction and dance party on Saturday. Though it’s a transitional year, organizers promise the same level of fun and think that the new format will better serve their audiences.
“It’s been a long, great run with Planet Hair. They’ve done a lot,” said James Woods, Positive Directions office manager and ArtAID co-chair. “After they decided to bow out, we had a meeting to determine how to keep this going, and the conclusion was that there needed to be an event that was split into two parts. The ongoing issue that’s always been there is that you have 1,200 people in a room and only 200 of them are registered to bid on art. The other 1,000 are there for the party. We’re trying it out this year splitting that up.”
Woods said that ultimately they want to develop the two nights into distinctly different events that will be more spaced out, held at different times of the year. That would allow for a more constant stream of revenue for the organization and also offer the community different avenues to support the cause.
In recent years, Woods said that ArtAID has brought in between $100,000 to $113,000. The funds are used to help fund operations, educational programs and a food pantry at Positive Directions, a nonprofit that has been providing support for those infected with HIV as well as educational outreach about prevention for 22 years.
Cody Patton, Positive Directions executive director, sees the live art auction as an opportunity to carve out a fresh experience. While in the past there has been a free preview party offered on the Wednesday night before ArtAID, this year there will be a $75-per-person ticketed event with a distinctly upscale vibe. The WSU Jazz Ensemble will perform throughout the night as patrons enjoy a selection of wine and beer along with a spread of gourmet food. Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, Sumo by Nambara, Taste & See, the Douglas Avenue Chop Shop, and Cocoa Dolce are among the eateries that will cater. The Humidor East will offer premium cigars in a tent outside.
Patton said it will be a select experience for more serious art buyers who were often crowded out of bidding during the one-night event.
“We’ve always been told that we have one of the best art auctions in town,” he said. “That’s why we are going to make the Wednesday night event a little more exclusive. It will be a higher-end auction for art buyers and collectors.”
Woods said that over the years, ArtAID has become one of the must-attend parties in Wichita, a reputation the group is proud of. The Saturday event will continue to have that same party-like atmosphere and feel, he said. After a move last year to Century II, they’ll be back at the Cotillion. Though the live auction has been moved, there will be a silent bidding section with more than a hundred pieces of art on Saturday. Corporate Caterers will provide food. The night will feature a fashion show produced by Models and Images that will focus on unique threads and costumes. DJ Ravi Drums, a private party DJ and drummer from Los Angeles, will be part of the runway show and will also entertain afterward. Woods thinks his energy and performance style will go over well with attendees.
“It will still be very much a party,” Woods said about the Saturday night affair. “We’ve been very careful this year with this show to try not to do anything that would be considered typical. We have a different emcee, different types of entertainment that we haven’t had before. We want a different feel.”
A ticket to the Saturday party is $65. Tickets to both events are $125. Patton said that the funds are needed at a crucial time. AIDS patients are living longer because of new medications, but the cost of treatment has risen.
The Positive Directions case management staff currently works with 197 clients, including 68 in housing programs.
“Most importantly, we do this because our client base continues to increase,” Patton said. “Infection rates don’t seem to be slowing. The good side is that people are living longer because of the medications available now, and that means there is more of a need to support our clients longer. As the economy changes and grants become fewer, it’s become more important for us to find different ways to support the agency. There’s a need for good, strong events to raise money.”