SPACES' Annual Benefit Tees Up a Grand Party and a Worthy Cause 

Safe Space


SPACES' annual benefit has become a tradition for the local art community. Each year, on the Saturday following Halloween, the organization hosts a costume party and silent art auction to raise funds for its operating expenses. The timing of the event is designed to offer guests one last chance to dress up before the Halloween costumes go back into storage. The eccentric theme varies from year to year; this year's theme is based around Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

How does this all get put together? Each year, SPACES selects guests of honor who have played an integral role in SPACES' history. This year's Nov. 7 benefit honors legendary gallerist William Busta, and his wife Joan Tomkins, for their dedication to supporting local art and artists and launching countless careers. They will have a hand in a specially curated selection of works up for grabs during the digital art auction.

"Thirty-five years ago, Bill Busta figured out that Cleveland artists needed an advocate, not just a sales guy," says SPACES benefit co-chair Jordan Davis. "His gallery was a forum for artistic growth, and he helped fuel the creative trajectory of many of our most accomplished artists. Bill and his partner Joan Tomkins worked to advance the state of the artist, as well as the art. Alongside SPACES and MOCA, Busta was a pioneer in creating an atmosphere of informed dialogue between artist and audience that we almost take for granted today."

More than 75 artists have donated work to this year's silent auction. Guests can preview auction items on SPACES' website and bid online using their phones.

"The SPACES annual benefit gives us the chance to show off the incredible artists in our expansive community and celebrate our guests of honor for the work they do to make Cleveland a world-class art city," explains SPACES executive director Christina Vassallo.

VIP guests will get plenty of extra benefits, including early access beginning at 6:30 p.m., with first dibs on the art and a guaranteed purchase price before the general public begins bidding. VIPs will be greeted with hearty hors d'oeuvres, an open bar, live music by the Trepanning Trio and preferred parking. Additional perks available throughout the evening include exclusive access to the VIP lounge, a digital art giveaway (see details below) and local artists on hand to entertain with 5-minute caricatures to commemorate the evening. VIP tickets are available for $150 ($100 tax deductible)

Additionally, the first 80 VIP ticket holders will receive a customized SPACES flashdrive with four digital artworks preloaded onto it, including works by Catherine Butler, Thu Tran and Jason Eppink, as well as a new piece by Jef Scharf, made specifically for the benefit. All of the contributing artists have previously participated in SPACES programming.

If you're not among the VIP crowd, general admission includes 8 p.m. entry, an official bidding number, the guaranteed purchase price option, light hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar, and a dance party. General admission tickets are $50 ($35 tax deductible).

Just looking to party and dance the night away? Dance party tickets include 10 p.m. access, light hors d'oeuvres, entertainment by Square Biz aka DJ Funk Shway and access to the cash bar. Dance Party tickets are $10 (100% tax-deductible). Bid numbers may be purchased at the door for an additional $10.

As we mentioned earlier, it's become one of those dates on the calendar that are circled by fans way in advance of the event.

"This is my second benefit and art auction with SPACES," says Vassallo. "Last year we enjoyed an outrageously successful event and raised enough money to expand our community outreach and deliver outstanding support to the artists we serve in 2015. These funds are crucial to the gallery. They pay for the heat, the water, the staff, and all aspects of running this gallery so that we can continue to support the artists and their work. We intend to match last year's success and have a whole lot of fun doing it!"

All proceeds from the benefit and art auction go to SPACES' general operating budget. These funds provide the support and infrastructure for turning ideas into projects, while introducing and integrating artists and audiences. As a platform for artists who explore and experiment, SPACES hosts an international residency program in addition to exhibitions featuring the work of local, regional, and national artists who push the bounds of concepts and media.

SPACES began very humbly with a rather plain-looking notice created on an average typewriter by Ohio native James Rosenberger. The document invited members of the arts community to a "gathering" on May 25, 1978, at 1375 Euclid Avenue. The letter read, "A space is an interdisciplinary arena for the visual and performing arts with an interest in creating and presenting new art including individual and collaborative works. The purpose of this first gathering is to introduce a space to area artists, and to discuss with them outlets for their creative energies during this first year."

In the 37 years since that initial gathering, SPACES has presented the work of more than 9,000 artists in its three venues: Playhouse Square (1978 to 1981), Warehouse District (1981 to 1990) and Superior Viaduct (1990 to present). During its time on the Viaduct, SPACES has established itself as a sanctuary and laboratory for contemporary artists seeking safe places to experiment with new ideas and media. Their unique programming brings artists to Cleveland from throughout the U.S. and around the world, and still allows local and regional artists an opportunity to showcase their talents as well.

It can be difficult to articulate the role of SPACES, because it's designed to form around ideas: The organization and exhibition space are meant to be as flexible as possible to support a wide range of possibilities. With this kind of malleability, SPACES is designed to change and grow with whatever comes next.


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