Persad Center's Art for Change continues to grow

| Sunday, May 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

“I still have a piece that I bought from the very first one, when it started with 275 people at the Mendelson Gallery. It just has grown. … There's heart to it. It really has so much meaning.”

Bob Sendall wasn't the only one waxing poetic duringPersad Center's Art for Change benefit on May 13. Celebrating the 25th year of Art for AIDS, the event continued its long-standing tradition of appealing to both fresh and familiar faces who were eager to reminisce with co-chairs Brian Stankavich andLaura Horowitz, executive director Betty Hill, and Jim Huggins, who founded Persad in 1972 with his partner, the late Randy Forrester.

“(When) we started it, there were two of us and a secretary. There were no gay organizations. People said, ‘It's Pittsburgh! How in God's name do you think you could start it in Pittsburgh?' But we all came together. (At first), we had death threats. Seeing all the change is amazing,” Huggins said.

For the crowd of 1,500, it was all or nothing for those seeking to bid adieu to bare walls with 200 original pieces to choose from, ranging from naughty sculptures and sassy drawings to thought-provoking photography. A little more than an hour into the festivities, half the crowd disappeared into the theater of the August Wilson Center to take a stab at the live auction, while the rest indulged in an extended cocktail hour and migrated throughout the space.

With everything donated in-kind, funds generated from the art sale fully supported Persad's Free Care Fund, which provides services to all LGBT clients, regardless of their ability to pay.

“I love it. Great organization, great cause,” Ian Syphard said.

Also spied were Dr. Larry Leahy, John Klein and Bob Davis, Emily Winn, Krista Jee, David Weldon, Liz and Ray Miles, Gene Welsh and David McAdams, Steve Sokoloski and Derick Stalker, Michael Kostiew and Stephan Bontrager, George Hazimanolis, and Jack Bellas and Ian Primosch.

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-380-8515.

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