“Art from the Heart” Benefit Auction Celebrates 40-Year Milestone

Turning 40 might not be a work of art for everyone, but it is at Sonoma State University.
January 10, 2024
Art from the Heart logo 2024

The University Art Gallery’s “Art from the Heart” (AFTH) benefit auction will celebrate its 40th anniversary from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, February 3.

“Art from the Heart has become a must for novice and seasoned collectors alike,” said Michael Schwager, SSU Emeritus Gallery Director and Professor of Art History. “In one evening, you can enjoy food, wine, and music; view works by a range of talented artists; support students and the gallery; and go home with an original piece of art.” 

Among more than 100 artists included in this year’s auction are works by:

  • The late Jack Stuppin, whose widow, Diane Stuppin, donated one of his pieces for the auction in honor of his relationship with Sonoma State;
  • LA-based artist Mineko Grimmer, whose work is held in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the High Museum of Art;
  • Legendary printmaker and SSU Emeritus Studio Art Professor Shane Weare, whose prints are in collections at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Brooklyn Museum;
  • Renowned Bay Area painter and SSU Emeritus Studio Art Professor Mark Perlman, whose encaustic paintings are in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum, among other collections nationwide.
  • Two artists recently exhibited in the deYoung Open Exhibition: Patrice Wachs and Eileen Parent, SSU Studio Art lecturer and BFA alumna;

“As always, AFTH will feature a creative, eclectic variety of art styles and media – figurative, abstract, paintings, prints, and ceramics – at a range of price points,” said Jennifer Bethke, former University Art Gallery Director and SSU Art History lecturer. “Last year we started including student art. It’s thrilling for a student to sell their very first piece of art,” she said.

The first AFTH fundraising event was organized around Valentine’s Day, according to its founder and then gallery director, SSU Emeritus Art Professor Bob Nugent, a world-renowned artist. His original appeal was to other artists he knew personally.

“I was apprehensive about asking them for artwork. So instead I asked them to send me a valentine. Something small, like a postcard or a work on paper, that would fit into a normal-sized envelope. For their contribution I sent each artist a T-shirt with a small heart on it.”

“We have continued that tradition. A commemorative T-shirt is designed and gifted to each participating artist every year,” said Claudia Molloy, Interim University Art Gallery Director.

Ceramicist Joel Bennett, who has been part of every AFTH since its start in 1984, reflected that ”It has been a wonderful experience for those of us who have donated over the years, as well as the public who have come to appreciate – and purchase – incredible art for a very good cause. And I love my collection of T-shirts from over the years!”

“One of my favorite parts of AFTH was the long-term relationships that developed with the artists who donated regularly,” said Carla Stone, the University Gallery’s Coordinator & Collections Manager for 25 years.

Among longstanding contributors was the late Hung Liu, whose work is in the the National Museum of Women in the Arts, SFMOMA and the Fine Arts Museums of SF, the National Portrait Gallery, and Berkeley Art Museum. The University Gallery has three of her pieces in its permanent collection; one of them was purchased by Ron Casentini at an "Art from the Heart" auction and gifted to the gallery.

Funds raised enable the gallery to bring dynamic art exhibitions and lecturers to the public and serve as a training space for student interns, said Bethke.

“Michael Schwager, Carla Stone, and Bob Nugent all paved the way for my success,” said SSU alumna and former gallery intern Kara de Lambert, who owns her own business, Lynae Arts.

“AFTH provides a way for us all – staff, professors, and alumni – to reconnect, buy art, and give back so current art students can be successful as well,” she said.

Originally a single event, with donated artwork on display for less than three hours, AFTH has evolved to include a three-day preview exhibition that allows visitors time to study their options and make opening bids. This year’s preview is January 31 through February 2. 

Event Information

  • Art from the Heart Preview Exhibition and presale bids: January 31 - February 2, 2024, 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. (SSU University Gallery)
  • Art from the Heart 2024 Benefit Auction and Party: Saturday, February 3, 2024, 5-8 p.m. (SSU University Gallery)

Contact the event page to purchase tickets for the Benefit Auction and Party. Suggested donation is $40. Pre-sale cost (before January 26) is $30 for two or more or $35 per single ticket.