SBMA Women’s Board Annual Fundraiser: The return of Off the Wall

By Joanne A Calitri   |   May 9, 2023
Event co-chairs Nancy Upton and Kathy Hartz (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art Women’s Board decided to do their signature event, Off the Wall, for their annual fundraiser and to pay tribute in memoriam to one of its co-founders, Cecia Hess, who started this lively auction in 2007 with Peggy Odgers. This is the 7th time it has been held since inception as the Women’s Board changes the type of fundraising event yearly.

Isabel Wendt and Paula Farrington with Larry Feinberg and Starr Siegele (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Themed “Off the Wall Reimagined,” the event was on Friday, April 28 at the SB Rockwood Woman’s Club. Starting with a formal cocktail hour, guests arrived in artistic outfits, with ladies mostly wearing abstract or floral prints, and men in Lagerfeld style. The outdoor patio area was dotted with chartreuse clothed café tables, fresh flowers in glass vases, and gold votives. Guests toured the art inside, making note of their top selections, while breezy live Brazilian acoustic music was performed by the Teka duet.

Larry J. Feinberg, the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz SBMA Director and CEO,with the SBMA Women’s Board President Paula Farrington and VP Isabel Wendt welcomed the 300 attendees and thanked the 94 contributing artists to the auction, some of which are art teachers at the museum. Feinberg said this is the most fun event of the museum all year. Since his term of 15 years, the SBMA’s Women’s Board has contributed funding to every museum exhibition and educational programming. Hess’s husband Milt spoke about his wife in remembrance and mentioned that most of the art in their home came from this event.

How the auction works is that guests pay in advance to have their names drawn from a painted vase for a work of art. As each name is called, the person has 20 seconds to call out the number of the artwork they wish to have, if it has not already been claimed. In addition, Ralph Waterhouse started the live auction with an “ask,” and the highest donor was offered their first choice of an artwork, followed by the next two highest ask donors.

Noted guests were Starr Siegele, Women’s Board event co-chairs Kathy Hartz and Nancy Upton; committee members Mimi Baer, Julie Blair, Debra Joseph, Nancy Kirkpatrick, Christina Omdahl, Pei Shu, Sue DiCicco Smith, Martha Townsend and Kathy Wenger; the featured artists, R. Anthony Askew, Don Hahn, Michael Irwin, Susan Savage, Toni Scott, Rick Stich,and Ralph Waterhouse. Also, Luke Swetland and Stacey Byers, Laurie McKinley of the McKinley Foundation, Paula and Greg Farrington, Carol and Michael Linn, Junie and Eddie Jinkins, Ann C. Cooluris, Mick Ventura and Kristin St. John, Gretchen and Marshall Milligan, Gwen Baker,and Kathy Weber

The fundraising goal of $90k was met, with donations being accepted via their website.    


The artists who donated works for the Off the Wall auction (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

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