‘Luau of Life’

Still time to get tickets for ‘Luau of Life’ children’s hospital fundraiser

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze April 9, 2015 issue

A traditional pig roast, an Elvis Presley impersonator and fire dancers will be among some of the festivities for the first gala Luau of Life this weekend to raise money for pediatric cancer.

The inaugural event will be held this Saturday, April 11, at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, 2301 1st St., Fort Myers. Tickets, which are $150 per person, $250 per couple and $1,200 for a table of eight, are still available and will be until 3 p.m. Friday. To reserve a ticket, call (239) 343-6950 or visit www.luauoflife.com.

The funds collected during the event will benefit Barbara’s Friends – Golisano Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund and Children’s Oncology Group.

Destiny Haggett, who is chairing the event with her husband Bill, said the event is going to be upscale, but casual, with Hawaiian or island wear.

From 6 to 7 p.m. guests will enjoy being entertained by Polynesian dancers, while receiving a complimentary lei and cocktails under the stars in front of the center. Attendees also will have the opportunity to browse silent auction items.

At 7 p.m. attendees will be welcomed by Dr. Emad Salman before a gourmet Polynesian buffet, including roast pig provided by Michael Gavala of G3 Catering, is served.

At 8 p.m. Haggett will speak about the importance of pediatric research for cancer before the live auction takes place. Her son, Chansen Savakinus, will also speak.

An Elvis Presley tribute artist Peter Alden will be featuring Blue Hawaii from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Haggett said her son Chansen is a two-time leukemia survivor.

Chansen was originally diagnosed in May 2007 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 6 years old. Haggett said although A.L.L is one of the most common and curable forms of leukemia, he relapsed in February 2012 at the age of 11.

The treatment the second time around was very harsh for Chansen.

“He suffered blood clots and six fractures to his spine and a stroke from treatment,” she said. “His outcome is the best you can hope for. We want to see the day where (this) outcome is the worst case scenario.”

Chansen is now doing wonderful and is nearing almost a year of being off treatment, which is why the family wanted to hold the event as a way to give back.

“He is phenomenal and you would never know what he has gone through,” Haggett said.

She said throughout the years her son has been treated at Golisano where he met a great friend, Chase Johnson, who died last year.

“The event I am holding is for cancer research,” Chansen said. “I am doing it for my friend who I had lost last year to cancer.

“I am very excited. We have been planning it for a year now . . . very excited to see it come to life.”

Haggett said Chansen was devastated and said it was not fair, that kids should always be able to survive their disease.

“We decided we would do a luau in honor of Chase,” Haggett said.

Chansen began a fundraiser at his school, Oasis Elementary School, in November. He said each classroom had a piggy bank for students to drop off loose change. T-shirts were also created and sold with names of children with cancer. All of those piggy banks and T-shirt sales raised $3,000, which will be combined with the proceeds of the Luau of Life event.

Haggett said they began planning this event because her family wants to raise awareness that there is no funding out there for pediatric cancer research.

“I don’t think they realize how little the kids get,” she said as far as funding goes. “We wanted to raise money to help the cause.”

Haggett said when you have a child going through cancer treatment, it is very expensive for the family.

“We don’t have the money because we are financially, completely lost, and we are the ones that have to do the advocating on behalf of the kids because there is no money to do research,” she said. “We are doing fundraisers and advocacy to try to make other people care and understand, so families can stop having to go through this and we stop losing children.”

“Gallery Hopping”

Gallery Hopping

Take a Trip through the local art world

Published in Cape Coral Community Lifestlyes November/December 2014

Gallery Hopping1Southwest Florida offers a variety of art galleries representing works of art from the 20th century to present day. Make a day – or evening – out of it, and gallery-hop to several fantasticlocal exhibits and displays throughout the area.

There are many opportunities to indulge into the art world through monthly exhibits, independent films and a casual stroll through galleries highlighting talented artists from around the country – and the world.

Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center: Downtown Fort Myers

A building that used to house the U.S. Post Office in the early 1930s was eventually turned into an art center that offers a great deal for residents of Southwest Florida throughout the year.

Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center Assistant Director Devon Parker said the building that houses the center was built in 1933. From then until 1965 the building served as the U.S. Post Office before serving for the federal system as a courthouse until 1998.

The building was eventually purchased by the City of Fort Myers and leased to the nonprofit organization, Sidney & Berne Davis Center, under the conditions that it would be restored and used as a multi disciplinary art center.

“The art center has been opened since 2008,” Parker said.

IMG_4061_stitch-2The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center offers everything from monthly fine art gallery shows to cutting edge theater and independent film, to classical and popular musical concerts, fashion shows and culinary arts, as well as playing host to several networking events throughout the month.

Parker said the center opens a new gallery show on the first Friday of the month during Friday Art Walk.

Last month’s art show featured Stage 16 by Arturo Correa and November will feature Art by Veterans. The last show of the year will be comprised of Abstract 9, a show by students of Florida Southwestern College visual art students.

The center is featuring a new event this season, First Taste Dinner at the Davis, on the first Thursday of the month through June before Art Walk. Individuals will have the opportunity to view a new art exhibition that is paired with a dinner prepared by the center’s new Executive Chef Mike Gavala.

The Ghostbird Theater will feature an original piece “Wooden Mouth” in November, the last one of this year. Independent films are shown on the first Monday of the month and the 5th annual Fort Myers Film Festival gets rolling in March. The concert series, which is always popular among attendees, showcases an array of renowned musicians.

“We have a strong classical concert theater,” Parker mentioned.

The center also hosts an annual fashion show every winter that has grown since its inception.

“We will be entering the third year of the fashion show,” Parker said.

This year it will be held the last weekend of January, Jan. 30 and 31.”

A fundraiser, Cooking for the Arts, was another special event held earlier this month. Parker said it is an interactive cooking fundraiser where attendees helped cook their own dinner with Gavala.

The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center is at 2301 1st St., downtown Fort Myers, and available for rentals for special events for individuals or groups. For more information, visit SBDAC.com, or call 239-333-1933.

Reverie & Rock Art Gallery: Downtown Fort Myers

Owners of KMK Publishing, Inc., which publishes Happenings A&E Magazine and Lee Family News Magazine, opened an art gallery downtown in October 2012.

Reverie & Rock Art Gallery Owner Jamie Kuser was among one of the creators of ArtWalk in downtown Fort Myers and was the co-chair for nearly six years. After his wife began doing digitalsurrealism artwork, the idea of opening up a gallery blossomed.

“In the past two years she has sold 75 pieces,” he said.

The gallery is split into two sides, the Reverie showcasing Kathy’s work, and the Rock highlighting Jamie’s photography.

gallery hopping2A magazine graphic designer of 10 years, Kathy puts together fantasy and mystical worlds through placing up to 500 images together to create a specific scene of more than 600 layers. Jamie said his wife will use techniques like lighting and shadows, so the image looks like someone took a picture of a fantasy world.

The prints are done on canvas and often include photographs she has taken at various locations. Jamie said one of her pieces included a picture of a manmade lake and a brick.

“She likes to hide things in the photos,” he said. Jamie, who has photographed live concerts for national performers for almost 20 years, has his work displayed in the gallery, as well. Some of his photography has appeared on tour T-shirts, VHI’s Behind the Music, the Associated Press Archives, as well as Happenings Magazine.

“People look at them and say ‘I have seen them in concert,’” he said. “It provokes memories.”

Before moving to Southwest Florida, Jamie photographed many concerts in Ohio and Michigan.

“I have a preference to 80 rockers,” he said, of who he enjoys photographing.

The genre of music has changed to country music performers since moving to Southwest Florida.

Reverie & Rock Gallery is open one night a month, during ArtWalk. It is also open by appointment. For more information, call 239-278-5236. The gallery is located at 1528 Jackson St., Fort Myers.

Watson MacRae Gallery: A Sanctuary of Art: Sanibel Island

After Maureen Watson had a business in New York City for many years, she left and studied painting.

“I learned a lot about painting and about art, what it takes and what a good painting looks like,” she said. “I learned a lot by doing it. I painted for about three years and I realized I wasn’t going to be good enough to make myself happy.”

gallery hopping3Watson eventually started an art school with artist Hollis Jeffcoat, which remained opened for three years. She said she learned a lot about business and found that her real love was owning a business.

A New York City native, who had lived in Naples for a number of years, had visited Sanibel from time to time before moving back to New York City. She said after hearing that Southwest Florida needed a fine arts gallery, she thought about Sanibel.

“Everything just worked out perfectly,” Watson said of opening Watson MacRae Gallery: A Sanctuary of Art. “It’s a wonderful community.”

The gallery started its seventh season this year on Sanibel, at 2340 Periwinkle Way, Suite B3. Watson said the gallery has been redesigned, providing an opportunity to show additional artists.

Watson MacRae Gallery is a fine art and contemporary craft gallery that features 30 to 50 artists from around the country. Each month during season, October through the end of August, a new themed exhibit graces the gallery.

“I mainly look for people that do things that are very well done,” she said of artists located all over the United States. “That has soul and is visually and emotionally engaging and that can be work in wood or glass.”

Watson said it is like an adventure finding new artists.

“Many are represented in museums, which is a criteria you look for when you look for good artists,” she said. “Sometimes they are in other galleries.”

The first two exhibits of the season will open on Nov. 11. Entitled “Jewelry: More than Adornment,” it will feature seven award winning artists. The exhibit will showcase contemporary handmade jewelry.

“It is an introduction to the expanded jewelry that I am going to show,” she said.

The second show, “Multiples,” will feature an artist’s series or sets of pieces of artwork with nine to 12 pieces.

“Each artist that I am going to show will have at least nine pieces of their work,” Watson said.

The gallery is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 239-472-3386, or visit WatsonMacRaeGallery.com.