Illuminations Charity art auction will benefit St. Vincent's Center, a home for abused children in Timonium

Focus on Art

September 06, 1998|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,SUN STAFF

Out of events of great darkness comes "Illuminations," a gala benefit that combines a celebrity art auction with an exhibit that, in touching and harrowing images, illustrates the impact of child sexual abuse.

Twenty-six artist-painted child's chairs and a number of other artworks will be auctioned at the end of this week, and proceeds will benefit St. Vincent's Center, a home for abused boys and girls in Timonium. The center was where Justin and Matt Wilke, two young men whose lives and family were warped by child abuse, did volunteer work. Their tragic story gripped the community when the abuser was brought to trial last year.

Both boys were artistic - Justin a painter, Matt a photographer - and both were articulate voices for the pain and terror that sexual abuse had wrought. When each of the boys took his life a few months apart in 1996, it seemed those voices had been stilled.

Instead, through the efforts of the Rev. Ray Chase, a Catholic priest who is director of spiritual development for the Children's Continuum of Catholic Charities and of J's

Committee, a group of committed citizens, the boys' message of healing through art will continue to see the light.

"No matter how much we talk about child abuse," Chase said, "we never really respond at the level of what's needed." The showing of "J's Exhibit" and events like "Illuminations," he said, "will continue to give [Justin and Matt] a voice in the world, since their voices speak so well about child abuse."

Chase said the idea of decorated children's chairs reflects a line from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella":

In my own little corner, in my own little chair,

I can be whatever I want to be.

On the wing of my fancy, I can fly anywhere,

And the whole world will open its arms to me.

"The quote fits so well with what Justin and Matt wanted to accomplish with their art," Chase said.

Some of the chairs are designed for and signed by celebrities to enhance their cachet. So many artists wanted to contribute that the center ran out of chairs.

"We thought that we would have difficulty getting original fine art," Chase said. "Boy, were we wrong."

Besides the artwork gathered for the event, there will also be an exhibit of five of Justin's paintings and three of Matt's photographs. When the works were exhibited earlier this summer, they caused profound reactions in viewers.

The auction is just part of an evening that will feature local musicians, tastings of Maryland wines and beer, and food from Chef's Expressions caterers. The event starts at 7 p.m. Friday at Scarlett Place, 729 E. Pratt St. The ticket price of $100 a person includes parking. For reservations, call Chase at 410-252-4000, Ext. 1607, or J's Committee, at 410-252-4000, Ext. 1713.

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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