Today's guest author is Matthew Mahler. This article has been edited and published with permission of the author.
Although I work and live in Raleigh, North Carolina, I am originally from Houma, Louisiana. Many of my extended family members continue to reside in and around New Orleans. Over the years, whenever a hurricane would approach their area, they would flee to Memphis, return in 3 days and then clean up the damage that was done by the storm. However, on Monday, August 29th, 2005, things were very different. It was mid-morning. I was at my work place in Raleigh, but with eyes glued to CNN.com.
When I realized that the levees had been breached in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, an out-of-body-like feeling rushed over me like a wave. My uncle lived a mere five city blocks from the levee. Getting a hold of my mother by phone was impossible as “all circuits were busy”. The city of New Orleans in essence became a fishbowl that day, and there would follow a Long, Long road to recovery.
Hurricane Katrina affected my entire family, both immediate and extended. Many of my close relatives: cousins, uncle and aunt lost their homes to this storm – permanently changing their lives. During the months that followed the destruction, I watched from Raleigh, a 14 hour drive away, as their lives were impacted. Our local Red Cross in North Carolina, “The Triangle ARC” got active in the relief effort by taking in over 6000 families from the gulf coast. Many of the ARC volunteers traveled down there during the height of the Katrina response. My family personally received help from their efforts.
Even by November 2006, Katrina continued to be part of every family phone conversation. I felt as though my hands were tied, unable to do anything more than offer support by phone. One night, I shared with my wife an idea that could enable me personally to take part in the Katrina relief effort.
My idea involved the creation of a fund raiser to help support Katrina victims, as well as, call awareness to the need for hurricane preparedness. The Triangle ARC would likely share my vision, so I contacted Mr. Barry Porter, the executive director. He agreed that my idea was a good one, so over the next 10 months, I organized the fundraising event by bringing together a group of volunteers while delegating as much of the work as possible. We met on a regular basis and followed up on the details religiously.
Because I had already been commissioned by a new restaurant in Raleigh, The Big Easy, to prepare New Orleans style artwork for for a show, I approached the owner with my idea for the fundraising benefit, and he agreed to host the event at his restaurant.
From here on I got busy along with a host of volunteers. The Big Easy offered to donate a portion of food and drink sales to the American Red Cross, and local wine vendors donated their wares for the wine tasting. A local Jazz band, The Carolyn Mitchell Jazz Trio signed up to provide the evening's entertainment. Mr. Porter, the ARC director, secured media outlets including a donated on-site radio broadcast, and ARC relief workers agreed to share their experiences about working in the Gulf Coast during the Katrina relief effort. As it was part of my original plan to use artwork to raise funds, twenty five artists donated their works for the event, and I donated 19 of my original oil paintings.
The Evening of Art and Fine Wine Benefit, saw a standing-room only audience, and was called a huge success by the Triangle ARC. Through this event, I was able to give back to the ARC, an organization that had helped my own family get back on their feet after the hurricane. As an artist, I gained exposure to numerous local art collectors and was asked to join the special events planning board of the Triangle American Red Cross, a position that I graciously accepted. The event was featured in the October 2007 issue of Art Business News.http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0HMU/is_/ai_n21053725?tag=artBody;col1)
For more information on Matthew Mahler's paintings, email Matt at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.mattsartjourney.com.