By Dawn Watson
In close-knit communities like the Hamptons, giving back is an integral part of the social fabric.
For the past 15 years, the premise has been illustrated time and again, sometimes quite literally, by dozens of artists who donate their works to the East End Hospice’s annual Box Art Auction. The interest to contribute to the fundraiser is so strong that with 85 slots available, there’s still a waiting list to participate.
The reason is simple says East End Hospice Board of Directors member and Box Art Auction Chair Arlene Bujese.
“Giving can be so much better than receiving, especially when it’s for a good cause,” she says.
Ms. Bujese has been intimately involved with the annual charity event since its inception. She donated her own artwork for the very first auction and was asked to chair the benefit during the fundraiser’s third year.
Despite some big names on the bill of fare each year, the auction has remained low-key and accessible, she says. The price of admission to the event, which will be held on Saturday, September 12, at the Ross Lower Campus in Bridgehampton, is only $75, and the minimum bid for the art in the silent auction is $125. Additionally, free artists’ previews and receptions will be held at St. Luke’s Church in East Hampton on Wednesday and Thursday, September 2 and 3.
“There’s a certain camaraderie among the artists, says Ms. Bujese. “It’s not glitzy, it’s not a gala, it’s just an opportunity to do some good and for the artists to go outside the box of their own work, pardon the pun, and contribute.”
Sag Harbor-based artist April Gornik has created a signature box for the benefit for years. The work she chooses to donate must have a certain intimacy, she says. Especially since the scale of the box is so much smaller than the large canvases she’s used to painting on. This year’s entry is a painting of clouds on a pond.
“I thought it would be perfect, since it’s about something contained in something else entirely,” she says of the objet d’art. “It has a modest magic I like.”
Like so many other artists involved with the auction, Ms. Gornik says that she has an emotional connection to the work done by the East End Hospice.
“I think the world of the East End Hospice. The workers give clarity and comfort and a sense of control to a situation that usually seems hopelessly chaotic and overwhelming, not to mention as emotionally challenging as something can be,” she says. “Being a hospice worker must be one of the most honorable things anyone can do, and I’m honored to support them and their work.”
Casey Chalem Anderson is in total agreement. She’s also donated to the auction several times over the years. And just over three years ago, she was on the receiving end of the East End Hospice’s services when her dad, artist Jerry Chalem, came to stay with her in Sag Harbor at the end of his life.
“They were absolutely fabulous,” she says of the workers who helped her and her family during that time. “They guided us through territory that we’d never been in before, in a very beautiful and poetic way. I’m grateful for their help.”
Ms. Anderson’s donated work this year is a rectangular painted box called “Atlantic Roll.” The painting, a crashing wave, is not only meant to evoke a visual response to the invigorating qualities of the ocean, it’s also a representation of “how every drop of water is connected to every other drop,” says the artist. “Just like we are all connected to one another.”
Connections are deeply important to artist Randall Rosenthal. “Nobody gets anywhere alone,” he says.
Crediting a strong network for his continued success, the Springs-based sculptor and painter says that he jumps at the chance to give back to the East End Hospice each year.
“I’m a fan,” he says of the home health care providers who help the terminally ill and their intimates. “I’ve had friends in hospice and I think what they do is wonderful.”
This year’s entry by Rosenthal, a 3-inch-by-5-inch pine matchbox called “Dog Box,” was carved from a single piece of wood and contains the artist’s signature realistic replica of a $100 dollar bill.
Further illustrating the importance of support and connections in life and in art, Mr. Rosenthal reports that both he and his wife, photographer Caren Sturmer, have boxes in this year’s auction. Her cigar box, “A Fractured Friendship,” is covered with pictures of her and someone who was once a close friend.
It’s the fostering of strong relationships, along with the knowledge that the proceeds raised goes to good use, that keeps the East End Hospice, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and the annual Box Art Auction going, says Ms. Bujese.
“It’s nice to know, for the artists and for those who purchase the boxes, that all of the money goes toward patient care,” she says. “That makes the spirit of contribution that much more meaningful.”
The 15th annual Box Art Auction, benefitting East End Hospice, will be held on Saturday, September 12, at 4:30 p.m. at the Ross School Lower Campus in Bridgehampton. A preview of the auction will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, September 2 and 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, at St. Luke’s Church in East Hampton. In conjunction with the event, an artist’s reception is planned for Wednesday, September 2, from 5 to 7 p.m. at St. Luke’s. For more information, and to view the artwork, visit www.eeh.org.