Art Affair 2016 Helps OpenDoors Of Asheville Raise Money To Change Childrens’ Lives

Installing new kitchen cabinets can serve as a catalyst to change the lives of impoverished children. Just ask Jen Ramming. When she commissioned renowned artist, furniture designer and Asheville resident Randy Shull, she was simply thinking about creating a warm, inviting environment for their rental house. The conversation shifted from furniture to philanthropy as the two discussed OpenDoors of Asheville, the organization Jen had recently co-founded to help Asheville’s youth break the cycle of multi-generational poverty.

"Tribute to the Rickshaw" by Nancy Hilliard Joyce

“Tribute to the Rickshaw” by Nancy
Hilliard Joyce

“Randy and I were talking one day when I said I thought OpenDoors needed to have a fundraiser of some sorts,” Ramming remembers. “Having met a number of our OpenDoors kids, Randy said we should host an art auction fundraiser. He immediately moved into action, making the first five phone calls to people who made more phone calls, ultimately leading to the creation of Art Affair.”

Ramming loves being able to claim the majority of artists and donors who were involved that first year remain involved as the organization prepares for its 7th annual Art Affair fundraiser. Green Man Brewery has generously agreed to provide their new South Slope space for the event, being held March 5 at 7 p.m. (VIP Reception begins at 6:30 p.m.)

Harmony Motors, Ananda Hair Studio and Brooke Priddy of Ship to Shore Designs have also returned to lend their abundant financial and in-kind support. Many of Asheville’s finest restaurants and social lounges will be providing signature dishes and libations. Live entertainment will also be provided. Andrew Brunk of Brunk Auctions, best known for his appearances on Antiques Road Show, hopes to be taking the bidders to new highs again in support of local children as the event auctioneer.

"Morning Mountains" by Moni Hill

“Morning Mountains” by Moni Hill

“What excites me most about OpenDoors is their individualized approach to serving the children in our community,” says 2016 Event Chair, Dosty Quarrier. “This organization serves many Asheville families struggling to break the complex cycle of social, economic, and educational hardship. This year’s “Athena to Zeus” theme is so fitting, offering a modern day twist on ancient Greek lore, one that celebrates our local heroes and heroines who teach, mentor and advocate on behalf of our students in the hopes of helping them reach their potential.”

More than 75 regional artists are contributing work, which includes paintings, ceramic, wood, glass and jewelry. This year’s featured artist is well known muralist Jeremy Russell. Donors such as abstract artist Kenn Kotara and Nancy Hilliard Joyce, an Asheville Art Museum Board of Trustees Member as well as owner of Nancy Joyce Gallery, couldn’t be more excited to participate. “The space is always filled with community leaders, partners and friends who come together to lift up our community,” Joyce says. “I look forward to this evening with great anticipation year after year.”

"Quiet" by Michelle Baker

“Quiet” by Michelle Baker

Painter Moni Hill, whose work can be found at art venues such as the Asheville Art Museum Gift Shop and Woolworth Walk, met Ramming almost ten years ago through her art. “When Jen told me the story of her connection to the families she hoped to serve, I was moved by her love and passion,” Hill notes. “As an artist, Art Affair is tremendously rewarding. The event is attended by many of the most sought after artists in the area as well as many local art collectors. As a concerned citizen, OpenDoors provides me with a great opportunity to contribute to a worthwhile cause.”

“When people value themselves, they have confidence and are more likely to be active contributors to their lives and broader communities,” adds contributing artist Michelle Baker whose work can be found at Café 64 and a variety of private collections.

"Always" by Philip DeAngelo

“Always” by Philip DeAngelo

OpenDoors board member Nancy McClinton, who has served for the past six years, is looking forward to her 7th Art Affair Outing. “What resonates most with me is that I believe if we can significantly change the course of one child’s life and break their cycle of poverty, then we impact their siblings, families and their children. I can see the growth and success with the students we serve because we have personal relationships with each of our students and established networks to help them. It makes me hopeful to witness change happening whether by providing access to learning opportunities or mentoring or advocacy. What we are doing and fighting for really does matter. The families we serve live in multi-generational poverty and have faced decades of barriers. OpenDoors helps students break that cycle and change their lives. For example, it might be helping a child experience predictable consistency through participation in an after school sport and feeling like a productive member of a team for the first time in their life. It might be identifying a learning difference and creating real strategies to help them experience success in school for the first time. Every year Art Affair has been a stunning, yet humbling event where we can both celebrate our successes as an organization and educate the community about our mission.”

Ramming is proud that OpenDoors’ students also participate in the event. “Some of our students work on art projects weekly at Roots and Wings School of Art and Design thanks to Founding Director Ginger Huebner. “For this year’s event, the kids have been working with Muralist Billy Smith. Their assignment is to create a portrait of someone who speaks the truth. Their work will be on display at Art Affair. OpenDoors’ students will also be on hand to mingle with our guests, which is what I love most. We have a very diverse complement of guests in black tie, artful t-shirts and jeans, models in Ship to Shore custom gowns, and proud students in the spotlight – it’s what the Asheville I want to live in looks like.”

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All proceeds support OpenDoors’ educational and enrichment programs. General admission tickets are $100. VIP tickets are available for $150. The cost for a special Patron Package is $500, and includes 2 VIP tickets plus two tickets for local teachers or social workers who work directly with Asheville children in need.

To learn about opportunities for online bidding or for general information, please contact OpenDoors at 828-777-1135 or visit them at

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker