| for The Hawk Eye
When the smoke cleared, only one brush was still standing.
Dr. Michael AbouAssaly was declared the winner of the 2021 Celebrity Battle of the Brushes when his version of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” was auctioned off for $6,800 — eventually.
All proceeds went to support the Art Center of Burlington. More than $20,000 was raised.
The Celebrity Battle of the Brushes was postponed twice due to coronavirus mandates, and Friday’s event was held in Burlington Memorial Auditorium this year, where opportunities to be socially distant are far greater than the more intimate Art Center Gallery Lounge.
It was a good move: The crowd was far too large to fit into the Art Center at all.
Five local well-knowns, under the supervision of professional artists, painted their hearts out for two hours.
The real battle wasn’t to see who “won,” but who would raise the most money for the Art Center.
The opening round
The All American Jazz Collective from Fayetteville, North Carolina, played light jazz with easily recognizable themes such as “Fly Me to the Moon” as people started to arrive.
Drummer Anthony Russel, bassist Tim Stewart and keyboardist Landon Oliver were accompanied by Southeast Community College music instructor Dr. Daniel Pappas on saxophone. The All American Jazz Collective was formed when Pappas was in charge of music at Fayetteville Technical Community College.
The food and beverage lines immediately beefed up as the auditorium filled for the first time in too many COVID-riddled months.
Burlington’s newest caterer, Tasty EnDEVOURs, provided treats including charcuterie boards, street tacos, barbacoa, mini Philly cheese steaks and bacon jam burger sliders.
Act Center of Burlington Director Tammy McCoy introduced the celebrity teams one by one at about 6:15, and they each paraded down the middle of the Auditorium to take their places on the auditorium stage.
Burlington School District Superintendent Pat Coen and Iowa City artist Elinor Krieger, dressed like country bumpkins, bopped in to John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” as a bunch in the audience chanted “Let’s go Pat! Let’s go Pat!”
Ann Menke and her sidekick, David Garrison, came as Cubs fans, complete with Cubs uniform shirts and buckets of rubber baseballs worth one free drink each.
“Get out your wallets, buy a lot of booze, buy a lot of food and spend your money on bad art!” Menke bellowed from the stage.
The crowd cheered as though Ryne Sandberg had just homered.
Dr. Michael AbouAssaly came out in his boxer’s robe, bouncing on the balls of his feet and shadow boxing as his trainer, artist Margaret Ertz, mopped his brow.
Ertz drove down from Des Moines to participate.
AbouAssaly hit the stage and did pushups to cheers, then said, “Every chance we get, we want to give back to Burlington.”
AbouAssaly and his family moved to Burlington in 1998.
Donna Logan and her muse, Craig Fleece, came dressed as cooks — strange cooks, yes — true to their theme of “Hot out of the oven.”
David Oetken, a.k.a “Super Dave,” and sidekick Chris Mulder waltzed in to the theme from “The X-Files,” and Oetken wore LED readerboard-style glasses that scrolled messages across his face as he boasted of an early victory.
The Battle of the Brushes
Each celebrity was to paint an original piece of art on a 16×20 canvas after McCoy revealed the subject and theme to be painted.
“Anything by Vincent Van Gogh,” McCoy declared, and the Battle began.
As the artists painted, the audience was free to walk around on the stage, observing, asking questions and doing their best not to spill drinks or food on the art.
A man dressed as Vincent Van Gogh wandered about almost aimlessly, carrying a rubber ear in his pocket for anyone sucker enough to mention that appendage to him.
Craig Cornick of Burlington was excellent as the eccentric Van Gogh.
When the allotted time was up, each celebrity auctioned off their own painting, trying to get the most amount of money of all.
When the bidding ended — along with the coexistent hooting and cheering and general ruckus — the monies brought in by each painting were impressive:
- Coen: $2,500
- Menke: $5,000
- AbouAssaly: $6,000
- Logan: $5,000
- Oetken: $2,500
All the celebrities threw in extras to entice bidders, including Whistle Pig bourbon and an original painting by Krieger, all of it hawked in true hick fashion by Karl Buster of Morning Sun; tickets for four to a 2022 Hawkeyes game from Menke; a five-course dinner for eight at AbouAssaly’s house and an original oil of the Cascade Bridge by Ertz; gift cards for multiple things including lunch for five at Martha Wolf’s house from Logan; a wheelbarrow’s worth of fireworks from Oetken, who said, “Everything you need for a New Year’s party.”
AbouAssaly stripped out of his robe at one point in the bidding to reveal a human torso T-shirt.
When the results were announced, AbouAssaly was outdone by Logan, who had sold an additional $1,850 in raffle tickets, so the good doctor tossed another $900 of his own dough into the pot and bought the championship.
“Bang-bang-bang!” shouted emcee KC Fleming, who, as auctioneer, was instrumental in driving the bidding as high as it went.
AbouAssaly’s nephews, Marcus Thurm and Gabe Svatek, came down from Cedar Rapids to watch the good doctor triumph.
The money raised from the auctions will help the ACB with operating expenses to provide quality gallery exhibits for the public, classes for all ages of art enthusiasts, and continuing opportunities for artists to show and sell their art.
“This was quite a crazy experience,” All Stars drummer Russel said when it was over. “I really enjoyed it.”
“I’m very happy for the Art Center and all the good things they’re going to do with the money,” Menke said.
At the close of the ceremonies, McCoy announced she would leave turn her position over to Elizabeth Pappas in June. McCoy will take over operations at the Capitol Theater.
The event was sponsored by L.J. Roth Restoration Service in Olds, Iowa.
Original posted at www.thehawkeye.com