Lake Norman & Mooresville

Safe Alliance’s Art With Heart hits 15th year

The annual Art With Heart event has been a key fundraiser for Safe Alliance for more than a decade, but organizers say its mission of helping survivors of abuse is more timely than ever.

Now in its 15th year, the annual event has raised roughly $1 million to support victims of domestic, child and sexual abuse.

Safe Alliance provides counseling, legal assistance, advocacy, shelter and crisis services to more than 20,000 people in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union and south Iredell counties each year and serves 20,000 more through advocacy and education annually.

Art With Heart is one of about a dozen fundraisers that Safe Alliance hosts each year, but Chief Advancement Officer Mike Blackwelder called it the signature event that brings in the most revenue, noting 600 to 700 people attend annually.

Artists from as far away as California donate works for the live and silent auction, though most of the artists are local to the region, organizers said.

Works available for purchase range from paintings in a variety of media – oil, acrylic, watercolor – to pottery and photography, said Art With Heart co-chairwoman Savannah Solomon.

Pieces range from $70 to $9,500, according to the art preview information on the event’s website.

Organizers expect to have more than 125 pieces available at this year’s event on Feb. 7, and Solomon said there will likely be upward of 15 pieces offered through the live auction.

But participating in the live or silent auction isn’t expected, Solomon said. “A ticket purchase supports the cause. Anything from there is just for fun,” she said.

“It really is people from all parts of Charlotte, all ages. (Most) artists (who) donate come, so that’s fun to mix and mingle.”

Emily Netzel, also an event co-chairwooman, said that while Art With Heart is a cocktail party – each ticket includes heavy hors d’oeuvres and open bar – “It’s a colorful and casual crowd.

“You’ll see one patron in a tux, another in jeans,” she said. “You can come observe from afar, walk the floor, participate as much as you want.”

This year Art with Heart has a theme, Netzel said. In Our Backyard was selected not just in reference to the local artwork, but also to reinforce that domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault are all local problems,.

“There’s no ‘face’ in terms of what a victim looks like,” Netzel said, adding that one in four women in the U.S. will be affected by domestic or sexual violence during her lifetime.

“We wanted to make this a celebration for those who attend but reiterate why we’re here.”

Also new this year is the competition among artists for prizes, including having their work featured in the live auction, Solomon said. Larry Elder, owner of Elder Gallery, is the juror and will announce the winners. A free reception will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at Elder Gallery, 1520 S. Tryon St., Charlotte.

“The competition has created new energy for artists. I’ve been touched by the enthusiasm that everyone in the art community has to support the cause in their very unique way,” Solomon said.

“There would be nothing there without artists being willing to share their work with us.”

The proceeds raised by Art With Heart are distributed across all of Safe Alliance’s service areas, particularly areas experiencing the most need, Blackwelder said.

“Unfortunately, we see a steady increase, we’re always serving more and more people,” Blackwelder said, noting that high-profile cases of domestic abuse in the past year have helped increase public dialogue about these types of issues and available services.

“It’s more talked about in public,” Blackwelder said, adding that more people are becoming aware “they’re not the only ones. There is help out there,” he said. “That’s a big contributing fact to the increase we’ve seen.”

The increase in awareness and discussion could translate into increased support for victims and programs like Safe Alliance, Solomon said.

“The conversation is reaching a national level on a pretty regular basis …With In Our Backyard, we wanted to bring focus back to the mission for our patrons,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful party…But their participation is supporting people in (the Charlotte region) and helping solve it in our area, not sending their efforts far away.”