Raising Hearts and Hands

Constance Williams & The Raise Your Hand Auction and Gala

What could be better than an evening of good wine, fine food and great art (all of it up for auction), shared among friends and benefitting a worthy cause? For almost 30 years, the Raise Your Hand Auction and Gala has done just that. On October 1st, 2016, the greater Asheville community will once again gather at the Asheville Event Centre on Sweeten Creek Road to support the life-saving, life-changing work of the Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP) at the 28th Annual Raise Your Hand Auction and Gala.

“Initially, Raise Your Hand was all about the art, and with good reason. We always have very generous donations from some of the region’s leading artists” says Pam Siekman, gala organizer and WNCAP volunteer. “But over the years, with the help of local restaurateurs, the gala and auction have featured great food and wine, too.”

Siekman realizes that the event has grown into something much, much more. “Now when people ask me to describe it, I say that Raise Your Hand is about feeding the body with delicious food and inspiring the soul with beautiful art so that WNCAP can help those in greatest need. My hope is that folks will come ready to make a donation to our cause; they will bid high and often, and take home a cherished treasure.”

This year’s menu is being developed by Chef Anthony Cerrato from Strada Italiano and the Social Lounge & Tapas Bar. Guests can look forward to a fine selection of hors d’oeuvres, such as beef wellington, bacon and bleu cheese stuffed dates and candy apple pork belly with Chianti reduction. The dinner entrees include vegetarian, seafood and meat options.

When plates are cleared and the bidding begins, it’s art that captures the spotlight. “And who better than the incomparable Constance Williams, our 2016 Signature Piece Winner, to be front and center,” says Siekman. “She is a longtime friend of WNCAP and supporter of Raise Your Hand, and this year is no exception.”

On the auction block is one of Williams’ newest works, Distillation Series: Green- Blue. This painting is a part of series that she unveiled in the spring of 2016. “I call this body of work Distillation because it captures my journey as an artist. I form rhythmic arrangements of color while focusing on the hue’s flow, transparency and saturation.”

Long recognized for her work in encaustic, Williams has recently turned her attention to a new medium—alcohol inks. Her work now incorporates these inks on encaustic paint, Yupo paper or aluminum board. “In 2015, I experimented with painting on my encaustic, and now I work purely with alcohol ink on aluminum board. The fluidity of this medium is soft and rounded. Now I use compressed air as my painting brush. The results are mesmerizing shapes and forms, with the subject matter being the color and its movement.”

Other auction items include in-home dining experiences from some of Asheville’s best known chefs, antiques, jewelry, get-away vacations, fine wines and spirits, and of course an impressive collection of local art.

According to Siekman, contributions like those from Williams and Cerrato are part of what make Raise Your Hand so successful. “This is WNCAP’s biggest fundraiser and absolutely critical in order for us to provide the Case Management Services, care, education and outreach needed to manage and even prevent new HIV/AIDS infections.”

Siekman notes that the WNCAP will need every bit of what’s raised to address the region’s growing number of HIV/AIDS cases; according to the Centers for Disease Control, the Southern U.S. has the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses, the largest percentage of people living with the disease and the most people dying from it. “In the years since Raise Your Hand first started, AIDS has gone from being a death sentence to being a chronic disease that can be managed with medication. But the fact remains that in the 21st century, AIDS and HIV are still very much with us right here in western NC.”

Since its founding in 1986, WNCAP has grown to become a critical part of the western North Carolina healthcare safety net. Today it provides HIV-related support, prevention, education and advocacy activities in all 18 counties.