Story & Photos by Raymond Street

The Vision 20/20 Gala is a fundraiser event for Burien Arts that was held on Saturday night, Nov. 19, 2022. Artists produce artwork for sale and split the money with the organization. The medium is 8 by 8 wooden panels.

In previous years before Covid, someone would ring the bell at some undetermined time, signaling to everyone that the art can be taken off the wall and purchased for $40. There was a frenzy, a commotion of sales, and everyone got into lines to purchase their pieces. The format this year was 9 wooden panels for each artist. Rather than a single bell ring, there were 3 bells. The first bell would be for $100, the second for $75 and the third bell would be for $40.

As with every event after Covid, there is a reinvention or a regrowth. This wasn’t going to be the same event, things change and artists change, and while this is an obvious platitude, it influences people. They tend to compare and evaluate an event with how things used to be. Having volunteered before, I empathized with the organizers, having to find a new location, recruit new volunteers who have not been volunteering for the last few years. Also realizing there would be many artists, all trying to create something new, and getting back out into the world of small talk and engagement.

I attended the Vision 2022 this year as one of 50 artists. I received my panels months before the event, with plenty of time to get them finished. When the deadline came around, the panels were painted and ready to display. Check in was at 2 p.m. on Saturday and the grids were all set up for us. There was complementary pizza for everyone. Some of the artists were also volunteers, after they hung their pieces and settled in, they were also receiving info on their tasks for the event. The check process was smooth and effortless. Many of the artists already knew each other, and some were meeting for the first time. There was a sneak peak of the artwork during set up, and I spied out a couple pieces I was going to buy when the bell rang.

Then 6:30 arrived, and the event started. The SeaTac Community Center had plenty of parking, and the location was easy to find. We were dressed in our fancy clothes, as were many others arriving. The place was populated, but not uncomfortably so. There was room to move, and we were greeted with friendly smiles.

I settled in and took a look around at all the artwork. There were familiar artists, youth artists, and artists who had never shown before. There were all varieties of skill and style. There were paintings inspired by flowers, frogs, goats, keys, locks, dinosaurs, strange objects, and painted faces of many kinds. There were pieces with fabric mounted on the panels, watercolors, oils, 3-D miniatures of a ramen noodle shop, even a burnt down replica of a Supreme Court building. (Inspired by the recent ruling regarding Roe V Wade).

As I walked around, I heard melodies of a musician playing a Kora, which is a beautiful instrument from Africa, played by musician Chet Corpt. There were volunteers ushering silver boxes around asking for donations for Burien Arts, and others carried an array of tasty snacks. There were stuffed mushrooms and peppers, sweet candies, and chocolate confections. Wine was flowing and people were talking about their artwork, and reconnecting with the art community they hadn’t seen in 2-3 years.

There was a brief informational from Grace Stiller on a mic from Burien Arts describing the 3 bells on what to do, where to pay, and what would happen during the evening. There was also a silent auction with an equally varied selection of artwork, including pottery, drawing from an unknown child, artwork donated from a private collection, and plenty of options for price ranges. Proceeds would be going to Burien Arts for their classes they provide, and scholarships for high school students.

At 7:15 p.m. the first bell rang, and many people went and purchased their pieces they wanted for $100. There was a half an hour break, then the second bell, and another half an hour, then the third bell. The lines were fast, everyone was organized and well informed.

The artwork shared its variety with the artists. I saw many different styles of attire; there were golden pants, suits, and dresses of all kinds, heavy necklaces, wigs, sparkles, and sequins. There was also a nice amount of new and young artists who had never shown artwork before. They were welcomed and encouraged, and many of them sold well, as their pieces left empty spots where they once hung.

As the evening progressed, and the conversations bubbled up, Grace again took the mic and announced the Burien Arts volunteer of the year for 2022, providing them with a crystal trophy for their service. This year the volunteer was Devrim Özkan. She was in the middle of a task, but after a moment was able to come up to the mic and accept her award.

Over the evening the crowd thinned out a little. Some artists and patrons said their goodbyes, having reached their social interaction limit. Other artists were getting deep into their conversations, discussing their experiences over the last few years. They talked about the emotions they felt while making certain pieces of artwork as well as new art processes and techniques.

By the end of the night many people had arms full of treasures, Christmas presents, and new connections for art opportunities in hand. I enjoyed the celebration of artwork, not only in words and kind gestures, but in the sale of artwork, supporting both an organization and artists directly. I think the event was well managed with an excellent turn out, and a great variety of artists and styles. I look forward to next year’s event.

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These opinions come from the years Raymond Street has served as a Normandy Park Art Commissioner, a grant writer and artist for the Mural Masters Graffiti festival, a previous Burien Art Walk organizer, a painter, a volunteer and fiction writer in the Burien, Normandy Park and Des Moines area. There are many more ideas and experiences around Art, and this is not meant to be any sort of authority on the multiple meanings of Art or anyone else’s experiences.