Bidding in Memphis!

This past Saturday night Nicki and I attended the Orpheum Theatre’s 33rd Annual Auction in downtown Memphis with our friends Tim, Traci, Rhonda, and Lynn.

I got a few free tickets ($100 each!) for donating one of my Monsterpieces and painted a “MEMPHIS” chair for their annual auction, which raises funds to help keep the historic Orpheum Theatre running. This is the Orpheum’s largest fundraising effort each year. Proceeds from the 33rd Annual Auction go towards the new Orpheum Performing Arts and Leadership Center which will be on Main Street near the Orpheum. It’s focus will be on getting kids access to the arts- and not just acting, singing and dancing, but also directing, producing, and more.

The Orpheum is a big supporter of arts education and this state of the art facility will allow The Orpheum to grow its current list of 19 performing arts programs to over 30, increasing participation from 52,000 students and families to over 100,000 annually!

This was the third big live annual auction I’ve been a part of. I painted a canvas chair (Phantom of the Opera) a few years back and donated another Monsterpiece painting (Vincent Price) last year. Nicki and I love attending these auctions. It’s a great chance for us to have a date night out, get a bit dressed up (wear my Elvis tie), enjoy the Orpheum’s architecture, and see some awesome art and other auction items. It’s also a kick to get to go up on stage and see what the theater looks like from there.

We also just love going to the Orpheum, and donating art has gotten us opportunities to be a part of other art auctions there, as well as see musicals and movies for free at the the theater (there’s also great food and open bar at these annual auctions!) We got a great deal on a painting for our living room this summer at an Orpheum art auction. It’s kinda funny because the painting was done by a school teacher, was titled “Back To School”, and it ended up above an old wooden school desk of mine. We got to meet the artist/teacher after that auction and she was happy it was going to a good home.

This year was a bit special for us. Not only was it our first event there to attend as a married couple (still sounds strange) and our two week wedding anniversary, but my chair was sitting center stage when we entered the theater- and was the only chair featured in the live auction! 6-7 other painted chairs were in the silent auction and scattered around the theater.

When we got to The Orpheum the lobby and side room were filled with silent auction items and people. Rhonda and Lynn met us as we entered the lobby, and I shortly ran into the Orpheum’s biggest cheerleader Pat Halloran and got to ask him if he liked my “MEMPHIS” chair. He said he really did, which was good to hear since Pat was a producer of “MEMPHIS” and won a Tony for that musical- his third!

Pat is president and CEO of the Memphis Development Foundation, which operates The Orpheum Theatre. If you’ve heard an Orpheum commercial or ever seen a show there you’ve probably heard Pat’s voice. Pat has also written a book on The Orpheum Theatre called The Orpheum!: Where Broadway meets Beale.

Lynn and Rhonda had told us my chair was sitting center stage when we first got there- and I geeked a bit when hearing that, but seeing it for myself as one of THE auction items on stage (Between a new VW Beetle up for auction and a classic ’65 Mustang that was being raffled off) I really geeked! I don’t think I’ve ever had any of my art in such a prominent place or with that much lighting. I get people offering to get me “exposure” for my art, but in Memphis- at least for me, it doesn’t get much better than being onstage at The Orpheum!

After getting over the initial shock and taking a few pics from the back of the theater we walked up on stage to get a better look. There were ushers on either side of the stairs there helping the ladies up the stairs and on stage, which was a nice touch.

My chair was positioned with the front facing the audience, but you could walk around it to see the back also. From in front of the stage I was afraid folks wouldn’t get a chance to see that back- which is the part I spent the most time on, but there was more than enough room for people to circle around it and get a good look.

It was kind of neat seeing it up and displayed like that, and not on a newspaper covered card table in the garage as I painted it!

We walked around the right side of the stage, past the Mustang, 3D TV prize, Memphis backdrop, one of the bars, and a food station in search of my Monsterpiece painting.

Behind the large stage backdrop was the art area and some of the other silent auction items. There was my Dracula painting in the middle of the the others. It was hard to miss- he is 4’x4′!

Throughout the night I would stop by to check in on what the bid status was on Drac ($350.00 was the last one I saw) and it was kind of funny to hear folks discussing it. Some even thought it was SIVAD– the local vampire TV horror host here in Memphis when I was a kid (who as SIVAD and Watson Davis worked at the Orpheum back when it was a Malco movie theater). I also heard a couple people trying to talk others into buying it- love it when others pimp my work!

It was also nice to overhear people saying nice things about my work, and I even had one lady recognize it as mine! Apparently she had seen at least one of my other art shows. I usually say if I wanted to “expose” myself to more people I’d drop my pants on a busy street corner, but you really can’t beat this kind of exposure for your art here in town (and did I mention the shows, food and open bar..?!) Lots of people looking to buy art here and lots of different types of art at various price points- a little of everything.

The backstage area had more silent auction items, as well as more food and drink stations and tall tables to stand around and enjoy the eats. Nicki spotted a table in the back left and we, Lynn, and Rhonda snagged it. The food was great and we enjoyed some good conversation and people watching. People watching at these events can be a lot of fun. 😉

Later we’d all go in separate directions to explore the silent auction items and backstage area more. Saw more painted canvas chairs, some signed posters, more art, sports memorabilia, ticket packages, and even a large wooden yard swing!

Backstage there are lots of cool murals for each of the shows that have been at the Orpheum. I looked to see if I could spot any I missed last time. A few were blocked off down one hallway the caterers using for prep.

I noticed more 3D effects on a few I had forgotten about- a white dress on Evita, a hairspray can for Hairspray, and the fur hand prints on the Avenue Que one was hilarious! (I don’t remember a show called Fire Extinguisher– must have missed that one.) Most murals I saw were signed by the casts, too. There’s another room for parities that wasn’t open this time, but it has lots of the posters from the plays and concerts, and downstairs there are photos of many of the celebs that have performed at the Orpheum. Lots of history to see!

A few minutes later we all met up again in in the theater area and ran into Tim and Traci who had just arrived. Tim was soon off to check out the Orpheum’s stage set up including all the rigging and lighting. He loves that kind of stuff. Nicki and I went off to explore the lobby and side room silent auction items.

Lots of package deals, furniture, art, a couple more chairs and another bar area up there. It was a sea of people looking, mingling, and bidding!

I love the Orpheum’s lobby- awesome chandeliers, grand staircases, and some really amazing details everywhere. You really feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you walk in. If you get a chance to see a show there or tour the Orpheum I highly recommend it!

Well, we heard Pat announce that there was only a few minutes left to bid or visit the bar and food stations, so Nicki and I headed back inside to find a seat with with our friends and grabbed some drinks one more time along the way. They kept one bar open near the right side of the stage during the auction. I saw some Dan Aykroyd wine at one bar! For the record all I had to drink that night was soda, but I did put a hurtin’ on some cookies and catfish beignets! Those were delicious.

Another one of the great things about this auction was that everyone who won an auction item got an Orpheum art print as well. These will be available soon in the gift shop, and Pat joked that they were a limited run of only 10,000. Soon I’ll have some prints available to help save the Massac Theatre in Metropolis– more news on that to come.

The first item up in the live auction was a suite, 16 tickets, and 3 parking passes for a U of M Tigers basketball game at the FedEx Forum. It went for $1000.00.

My chair was the second item up for auction. I was a bit nervous before it went up, and even more so after my name was announced and they started to bring the chair forward on the stage.

They turned it 360 degrees revealing the back art to the audience as the bidding started, and even tilted it forward for folks to see the seat marquee art. The marquee had the MEMPHIS logo, two main figures from the show (and back of the chair), and the dates it played at the Orpheum. There were photos and my name projected on a large screen hanging above the stage. Each item in the live auction were projected up when their turn came up.

I was hoping it would go for at least $500.00 and would be ecstatic if it went for $1000.00, but what if no one wanted to bid on it..?! Well, a quick bidding war ensued and it ended up going for $1200.00! Everyone cheered when the final bid was announced as the winner, but I think my wife and friends cheered the most! Thanks, guys. 🙂

They had all told me they were very proud of me when they saw the chair and its position on stage, and they were just as excited and proud as I was when it had been auctioned off. That really meant a lot to me, and I loved the look on Nicki’s face. I love it when I can maker her that happy, and having help raise over $1,500.00 with my art that night made me feel really good as well. Ok, and it was really cool to see my name that big, too…wow!

We enjoyed the rest of the auction and saw some amazing items and trip deals won. There were several we wanted, but we all cheered as others won them. It really moved along this year and was very exciting to watch.

The final item was the VW Bug, and then the raffle for the Mustang. The 2nd place winner got a 3D TV, and I believe third place got season tickets to The Orpheum. Both very nice consolation prizes!

Lynn ended up winning a wine party and a piece of furniture in the silent auction. After she and Tim got it in Rhonda’s car we all headed down to Beale Street for some dinner at Blues City Cafe.

Lynn and Rhonda called it a night after dinner, but Tim, Traci, Nicki, and I walked around Beale for a bit. We ended up next door to Blues City Cafe in their bar area to listen to some music from the band Hillbilly Casino.

They were a lot of fun to watch, and I’d never heard a rock-a-billy’ish version of KISS’ “Detroit Rock City”, but it was pretty cool.

On the way out we ran into my niece Shena and stopped and talked about our honeymoon in New Orleans with her. Hadn’t seen here since the wedding. The kids are all so grown these days..! I joked with Shena about needing to see some I.D.! It really doesn’t seem that long ago they were babies or kids riding around with me in my old super-beetle.

Mrs. Workman and I had a great night and we can’t wait to do it again next year!



Bidding in Memphis!

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