Fun without a 'lofty' cost

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Gallery hosts fundraising events for community non-profits

By Michele Roberts

The Lancaster arts scene is putting its collective talents together in an effort to benefit local non-profit organizations, thanks to a series of fundraising events that began in February.

Christina Chastain, gallery owner at Chastain’s Studio Lofts, said a very successful annual Christmas party and seven years of experience working with non-profit organizations were what started her thinking about how the gallery could do more to reach out to the community.

“We have a Christmas party every year, and there was just something extra special about the one we had this past year,” she said.

“Everybody had such a good time. We had good music and live painters, and I told my husband, ‘We need to find a way to do this so that the community can be involved. There must be a way to reach out.’”

Chastain said she felt there must be a way to use the studio more in an outreach capacity, and give people the same good time that was had at the Christmas party. She started thinking about local non-profit organizations and had the idea to choose a different non-profit from the community each month and hold a fundraising party for that particular cause.

“We take the information on each organization or cause to a 10-member committee, who vote on them based on need,” she said. “The organizations chosen need to serve the Lancaster County community, and once they have been voted on, the list is sent back to me, and we start planning from there.”

The studio’s house band, Carolina Blue, donates four hours of their time a month for the events, and Chastain said the events are scheduled according to their availability. The events feature live painters and other artisans, such as potters, and the entry fee is just $5.

“We wanted to make the event available to anyone who wants to come,” Chastain said. “We sell raffle tickets for $1, and they can be used to purchase beverages and other things during the event. We have a silent auction and people can bid for paintings, jewelry and pottery, all made by our artists. Generally we’ve had a lot of things that appeal to women, but we’re making an effort to have things that will appeal to guys as well. For the upcoming events we’ll have things like baseball tickets and gift baskets tailored for guys that will include things like tools. A lot of local businesses have stepped up to support this by providing these items for auction.”

Chastain said the events have grown each month since February and the amounts raised have increased by about $200 per event.
She said people who hear about the event and can’t come have visited the gallery and made donations ahead of time.

“These fundraising events have really had a nice atmosphere, because we want people to come in and experience the arts and have a good time while they are supporting a good cause,” she said. “I personally have learned so much about these local non-profit organizations that I didn’t know before, and it just makes me more determined to help them out. They do so much good here. Times are tough and there are limited resources and a rough economy, so it’s up to the community to help these groups. I think of (Lancaster County) First Steps, and how their funding has been cut time and time again, so it’s very evident that it’s out of the government’s hands now and we must step up to help.”

The first event in February was held for Clayworks, a non-profit organization in Charlotte dedicated to the promotion of ceramic arts, advancement of artists and students, and enrichment of the community it serves. Clayworks has been promoting ceramics in the Charlotte area for more than 30 years. Chastain said Clayworks was chosen because it is a non-profit that promotes art and art education and provides scholarships and other learning opportunities for those wishing to pursue art as a career.

“Art is no longer a pursuit for which you have to starve,” Chastain said.

“The starving artist days are over, and we want to keep it that way.”
Clayworks Executive Director Adrienne Dellinger said she thought the event turned out great and is appreciative of the fact that Chastain not only included a lot of the Clayworks artists at that event, but includes them in a lot of events held at the gallery.

“This is a really wonderful thing she’s doing, getting the artists involved like this,” Dellinger said. “We are so appreciative of the fact that she understands our needs. It’s easy to get grants for programs, but not for operating expenses, and that’s what we used the funds from this event for, to pay for some of our fixed costs.”

The March event was a fundraiser for Skylar’s Cupcake Team, a Relay for Life team headed up by 14-year-old Skylar Barton, daughter of Eddie and Gina Barton.

“I used to take classes with Christina, and she asked me if I wanted to be a sponsor charity for one of the fundraisers,” Barton said. “I told her yes, I thought that would be great. And the event was really good. I started this because I lost two grandmas to cancer, so Relay for Life really means a lot to me. I want to do whatever I can to help other families not to have to go through this. All of the money we raised at the event was able to go to Relay for Life and cancer research; that made me really happy.”

The docket for the rest of the year’s events is full, and Chastain said there are groups already requesting to be on it next year.

“If more people knew about this, what a tremendous help we could be to these organizations,” she said. “We really want to spread the word about this as much as possible. There is also an open invitation to other artists who want to come and work their craft during these events. We are still very much interested in promoting the arts and art education, because we believe that’s important for the community, too.”

The next event at the gallery is “Ava's Gift to June” from 7 to 11 p.m. June 21. The cost is $5 for entry. Drinks, refreshments and raffles are available.

For information on upcoming events, contact Chastain at 803-804-3659, stop by the gallery at Chastain’s Studio Lofts at 107 S. Main Street, across from Hi-Lites clothing store, or visit the website at www.chastainsstudiolofts.com.