The late 1980s were a particularly scary time to be a part of the LGTBQ community. That’s when the Persad Center, a local organization dedicated to improving the well-being of the LGTBQ community, decided to use art to make a change. 

“Back then, we didn’t have rainbow colors flying in the streets or pride parades,” says Marty Healy, CEO of the Persad Center. “It was a scary time for all of us and we just wanted to find a way to help the community move forward.”

The center launched its first Art for Change event 34 years ago as a way to raise money for people living with HIV. This year’s event takes place on Friday, Sept. 9, with several upgrades, including a new venue — Stage AE on the North Side.

Art for Change 2021 at This Is Red. Photo courtesy of David Bachman.

The new location promises a more stylish rebranding of the event, says Bob Sendall,  event committee member. Attendees can try dishes from Sendall’s All in Good Taste Productions while they watch live drag performances.

Though Art for Change is a fundraiser for the organization, participating artists will receive 20% of the sales from their work at the auction. 

“It’s really important that the art community understands how much we appreciate them, especially in this time of economic slowdown,” says Mia Tarducci, art chairperson for the event.

Art for Change

“Pride” by Arellano Gustavo, featured in the 2022 Art for Change auction. Photo courtesy of Persad Center.

Tarducci spearheads the selection process for the art along with Judy Barie, director of galleries at the Chautauqua Institution; Madeline Gent, executive director of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh; D.S. Kinsel, co-founder of BOOM Concepts in Garfield; Rachel Saul Rearick, executive director of Contemporary Craft; and Steve Mendelson, owner of Mendelson Gallery in Shadyside. In a new twist on the festivities, each chairperson will curate their own gallery for the event, with more than 125 pieces featured in the auction.

Auction highlights include a photo of Elton John from the Herb Ritts Foundation and work by NYC-based celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz, as well as a piece by renowned American artist Keith Haring. Also featured in this year’s auction will be work from Maryland-based artist Anita Henley Carrington, Washington, D.C. artist Wayne Hollowell, Chris Lopez of Florida and Mark Wardel from London. Local artists are also contributing to the 2022 event, including Baron Batch, Michael Lotenero, Ellen Chisdes Neuberg and Burton Morris.

All art will be sold through silent auctions — which will take place throughout the evening — and the live auction, which will showcase a handful of the larger pieces.

“We’ll be closing the galleries one by one, so if folks miss a piece of art they wanted, they can bid on another elsewhere,” says Healy.

General admission tickets are $150 and the VIP Experience, which includes valet parking, early access to the galleries and your name listed as a “Friend of Persad” in the program book, is $375. VIP Experience tickets must be purchased by Sept. 1. Buy tickets here.

The Persad Center provides services to the LGBTQ and HIV+ community regardless of a client’s ability to pay, and the money raised during the event will allow the center to see more clients.