Local artists band together for typhoon relief

It’s been more than a month since Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines, claiming the lives of more than 5,600 people and displacing an estimated 4.4 million.

While the devastation may have superseded from the front page, times are still incredibly tough for those on the long road of reconstruction. According to Oxfam International, Haiyan affected the poorest provinces the most — and with 4 out of 10 families in those areas living below the poverty line prior to the disaster — these small-scale agriculture and fishing communities have been pushed to the brink.

Putting together an effort to help out comes across like it was sort of a reflexive decision when speaking with Colin McCarthy and Tyler Modzeleski, the two Grand Rapids artists responsible for orchestrating Art For Water — an exhibition and auction dedicated to raising money for typhoon relief.

With a solid local network of creative minds living and creating in their own neighborhoods, McCarthy and Modzeleski knew there were people around that would be willing to pitch in, it was just a matter of getting everyone together.

“Most of our friends are artists or makers, so when we felt the need to put something together for the typhoon relief, it was pretty clear that we could put together a gallery show with donated work,” McCarthy said.

The event, hosted by The Forest (133 Division Ave. Suite 100) features donated pieces from over 15 artists, many of which are based in the Grand Rapids area. The nonprofit Wine to Water, which provides water filters capable of supplying 295 gallons of water per day, will be matching donations.

Starting at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, Art For Water will feature a silent auction, with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward relief. Other sponsors for the event include Chrome Industries, Regular Coffee Company, Bern Unlimited, Sawyer ProductsBurton Snowboard, Bartertown Diner, Stance, RVCA and Boxed Water is Better.

“I’ve been wanting to get artists together and have an open platform for everyone to gather, meet and interact with one another through art,” Modzeleski said. “I think Grand Rapids needs more of that, and I was looking for a way to contribute my art as well as reaching out to some other folks about getting involved with something that could make a difference.”

One such artist whose work McCarthy and Modzeleski both expressed interest in seeing, and even purchasing, was that of Chris Cox. Cox will be contributing a framed 30-by-30 inch photograph from a recent body of work, “Spiritual Lake,” created in late 2012. Additionally, will have an artist book available at auction entitled “Beholder,” which was released Dec. 6 at the Gaspard Gallery in Grand Rapids.

“Water is a common theme across many of my works, so this is a nice benefit to contribute to,” Cox said. “Many times it’s hard to get an artwork to match a particular theme but this time it worked out nicely.”

Cox said local artists are almost always looking for an opportunity to showcase their work, and even without getting paid, it’s worth it.

“I’m happy to participate in charity auctions,” Cox said. “It’s nice for a work to get out of storage and go to a good home, especially if the profits are going to a good cause.”

Other artists featuring work in the exhibition include Carson Davis Brown, Mae Stier, Emily Capisciolto, Geoffrey Holstad, Zach Snellenberger, Erik Zimmerman, Nick Lewy, Danny Ward and more. Live music will be provided by local surf/psych outfit Plantains.

There's a tangible sense of hope in the air when McCarthy talks about the local artist community and it’s enthusiasm in pushing forward with events similar to Art For Water.

“I think the Grand Rapids art scene has always been really great about embracing these types of events,” McCarthy said. “Group shows are also always a really fun time for everyone involved. There’s no pressure to fill a whole gallery alone and it’s a really fun way to get to know your peers during (installation).”

Modzeleski agreed, saying that the local art community will continue to work together and gravitate towards these types of shows.

“I think we are all looking for a way to show Grand Rapids that these types of things can continue to happen, and need to. Everyone seems to want to come together for the better.”