ACOS Annual Art Beat Auction Fundraiser Showcases Artists, Raises Monies for HIV/AIDS

Kitty Litter with Jonathan Peters from Project Runway, auctioning off his "one of a kind" gown.
Photo: JDHS Photos

Kitty Litter with Jonathan Peters from Project Runway, auctioning off his “one of a kind” gown. Photo: JDHS Photos

By: Clara Lefton/TRT Reporter–

In October, AIDS Ocean State Care, ACOS, held its 16th annual Art Beat, an auction dedicated to raising money for those affected by AIDS and HIV in Rhode Island. The live silent auction took place at the Providence Biltmore Hotel on October 19, while the online portion was spread out over September 8 through October 15. After expenses, the event raised a total of $36,897, falling just short from last year’s $39,540.

“The success is not just measured in donations but the visual representation of art auctioned for a cause. Folks participate … with the excitement of auction competitiveness and the satisfaction of contributing to the AIDS community,” said ACOS President and CEO Paul Fitzgerald. “I was pleased with this years’ experience.”

The live auction brought in 322 people, where each $45 ticket gave access to a 6:30 p.m. cocktail party and then to the show at 8 p.m.
For the past two years, the live gala has been hosted by local celebrities Kim Zandy of 92 PRO-FM and Miss Kitty Litter, the drag queen alter ego of ACOS’ Development Director, Stephen Hartley.

Hartley attributed Zandy as a strong promotional tool for the night.

“She schmoozes for an hour and a half before [the auction and] gets them all going,” he said. “Last year she bought the safari that we auctioned off, so she was able to to talk about that. This year she bought a piece of art. So next year she’ll come back and talk all about that artist.”

This year’s big attractions included “Project Runway Season 7 finalist Jonathan Peters, as the Featured Celebrity Designer. Also the Creative Director and Vice President of Brand Development at StyleWeek Providence, Peters’ custom gown sold for $3,500. The evening’s Featured Artist, Dennis Akervik Coelho, sold his oil on canvas piece “Ice Castles” for $8,000.

“It is a great event with wonderful visual arts on sale through the beneficence of donors to an appreciating audience. All in a great cause. I had a wonderful time at the event and this year, once again, noticed that there is an abundance of new supporters to this cause,” said the 2012 Honorary Chair, Roz Rustigian of Rustigian Rugs.

Although the art auction is a great opportunity for those with well-established careers, Art Beat 2012 also opened doors for artists new to the event. The self described “‘neo-pop gay artist” Phil Shaw featured his six piece, bright acrylic “Fierce Fresh Fish,” which sold for $1,050. Shaw’s participation allowed him to connect with an audience he loves and network with other artists in his field.

“It was super important for me to contribute because I am an avid promoter of the LGBT community. My work almost always is in response or in reference of something related to the LGBT community, so being able to give to a cause that can affect my societal group means a lot to me,” explained Shaw. “Most of all, I was honored to be there among other artists and contributors.”

For those unable to attend in person, ACOS has included an online portion of bidding for the last nine years. This often includes gift certificates and smaller items, and also allows an international opportunity for those to access the “Bidding For Good” website. Ultimately, the internet bids have allowed ACOS to generate a buzz about the event before it physically happens.

“We’ve found over the years that we are seeing more people coming to the auction because they saw it online. Last year we had a couple from Chicago that came up specifically to bid on a piece that was in the live auction,” said Hartley, who is in his eighth year with ACOS.

His assistant, Kalene Brennan, Development and Communications Manager, also believes the organization has a good formula going. She pointed out that Art Beat has attracted back credible sponsors, including Bank of Rhode Island, who provided event registration volunteers, and Citizen’s Bank, who has largely sponsored ACOS in most events for the past three years.

“We’ve been doing this event for 16 years and people are still excited about it. That’s probably the most important thing because sometimes, with long running events, people tend to get bored … But this event, year after year, has always been a huge success for us because we always get great, new artists and some of our artists have been donating to us for over 10 years. So it’s a good mix. It’s always nice to see the mix of old and new at our Art Beat.” said Brennan.

All of the funds raised from the auction will go directly toward helping the state’s largest AIDS service agency, now in its 22nd year. Programs and services do not require medical coverage, and offer a wide variety of care options. ACOS offers free HIV testing, as well as emotional and clinical assistance. The organization also offers housing assistance and various support groups.

“It was important for me to contribute to the event because it aligns closely with my passion — art, and the funds raised stay in the local community for a very important, life-threatening disease,” said Jonathan Luke O’Brien, a sponsor of the event, whose artwork was featured for the first time. “My experience was great! It was my first Art Beat and I will be definitely participating next year.”

For more information about ACOS and upcoming fundraising events, visit

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