Birthday bash's beneficiary is AIDS fight

April 30, 1993|By Wayne Hardin | Wayne Hardin,Staff Writer

For Alexander Baer's 45th birthday party:

David Simon, director of the Baltimore School for the Arts, did a few peppers and tomatoes.

Arnold Lehman, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, did a "Large Reclining Nude," all pink and blue and familiar, except the face is a photograph of Mr. Lehman.

Tammra Sigler, Baltimore artist, did an explosion of blues, yellows, reds, greens and pinks that said fun and play and color and "Alex."

Sally Thorner, anchorwoman on sabbatical, did a collage tribute to a friend who died of AIDS.

All it cost was a $100 donation. For that, they and many other Baltimoreans received a chance to fill an "empty canvas" for a "good cause."

This isn't just a party Sunday for Mr. Baer, well-known Baltimore interior designer. It's Art for Life, an auction and reception in a grand ballroom at the Belvedere. Proceeds go to Lifesongs for Aids, a nonprofit corporation, to fight "the devastation of HIV and AIDS." The canvases will be a backdrop for the auction.

The birthday of Mr. Baer serves as the hook.

"Joanie and Aaron Young and I wanted to do something special," says Mr. Baer, a co-founder of Lifesongs in 1988. "We decided to use my birthday as a way to ask people for gifts, but not for me."

The Youngs own three Renaissance Fine Arts galleries, in Pikesville, Columbia and Bethesda. They will coordinate the auction, which features about 150 works from locally and nationally known artists.

This is art for art. Filling the empty canvases is another idea, one in which Mr. Baer invited his friends and friends of Lifesongs to express themselves. This art is not for sale.

Basically it amounts to: Donate $100 and receive a 12-by-16-inch slick cardboard "canvas." Inside the "frame" (a photograph of one), a 6-by-10-inch white space awaits.

Mr. Baer says he expects 50 people to participate, but Ms. Young says the number may be double that.

The governor signed his drawing of a "ship of state" as "a #F composition by William Donald Schaefer." Other "celebrities" include greeting card designer Barbara Dale, movie director John Waters and actresses Bess Armstrong and Ricki Lake.

There have been paintings, drawings, collages, poetry, notes and signatures. They have been earnest, silly, sad, witty -- reflecting the joy of knowing Mr. Baer and the deadly seriousness of AIDS.

Mr. Simon says he was torn between doing "something to dramatize the AIDS fight or a birthday message for this wonderful, generous man."

In the end, he did a watercolor of three green peppers and two red tomatoes and glued the watercolor paper onto the blank canvas, signing it with birthday greetings to Mr. Baer.

"If you like tomatoes and throw in a pepper or two, you got it," he says.

Mr. Lehman used photography and collage to squeeze himself and "Large Nude" into the space.

"I wanted to do something fun and recognizable that might help in terms of the auction," he says.

Ms. Sigler achieved her artistic effect by "pushing colors around."

The white area outside the frame disappears under a barrage of blue, most of the frame under a yellow cascade. A pink figure, arms outstretched in a party stance, dominates inside the frame, surrounded by virtually every color from the palette and the words, "Forty Fun Alex."

"Alex is fun," she says. "That's the first thing I thought of with him."

Ms. Thorner, now at home waiting to begin work at WJZ-TV, offered a poignant collage dedicated to David Carroll, a Broadway performer and friend since college, who died last year at 41 of AIDS.

"Doing it turned out to be therapeutic," she says.

The collage includes a New York Times obituary, a picture of Mr. Carroll holding her baby, the program cover from his memorial service in New York, a ticket stub from his last concert, a "circle of life" piece of turquoise from New Mexico that he had tied on her wedding gift.

"I thought the ultimate message should be what a huge tragedy that so many young, creative people have been killed off by this disease."

The specter of AIDS gives Mr. Baer's 45th birthday party a different emotion than his 40th birthday party, a black tie gala with a "Phantom of the Opera" theme in a Canton warehouse. Instead of gifts, he asked for contributions to the School for the Arts. That party raised $15,000.

This one will be in the afternoon and deliberately casual. Anyone who pays $25 for a ticket can attend. Truffles at the Belvedere, a catering firm, is supplying the ballroom and the food, both at no charge. The musicians will perform free; friends of Mr. Baer will serve as waiters and waitresses. Lifesongs will get 20 percent from sales of the artwork, which will range from $100 to "into the thousands" and have minimum bids of "far less than retail value," Joanie Young says.

With no overhead, Art for Life's goal is $20,000 profit, says Mr. Baer. "My 40th was a fun party. This one will have a fun party feel but also raise money for a worthy cause. There's almost no one this disease hasn't touched in some way."

ART FOR LIFE

What: Art auction and reception.

When: 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Truffles at the Belvedere, 1 E. Chase St.

Tickets: $25.

Call: (410) 727-4100.

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