Art Turns Out for Marriage

Activists from advertising, arts worlds raise money to support legal push

On Monday, May 10, a stylish after-work crowd gathered at the Kashya Hildebrand Gallery in Chelsea for an exhibition of designer posters hosted by Art for Equality, an organization recently formed to support the struggle for marriage equality.

All proceeds from the sales of the posters, a silent auction, and tickets to the event, which ranged from $35 to $250, went to Freedom to Marry, the advocacy organization headed by gay rights attorney Evan Wolfson.

The event raised $12,000, said organizers.

“It’s important to reach out to gay people and non-gay people alike and ask for their support,” said Wolfson. “Some of us do that through making good arguments and some through making good art.”

Meanwhile, a DJ was spinning catchy tunes and guests, many from the worlds of advertising and art, mingled casually. Among the items on sale were a poster autographed by the lesbian singer Melissa Etheridge and collectibles carrying the autograph of actress and human rights advocate Susan Sarandon.

Art for Equality was founded by business partners Steve Defontes and Richard Fye in response to President George W. Bush’s announcement that he would support a constitutional amendment to restrict marriage to the union of one man and one woman.

“We conceived the idea literally the day after the State of the Union address,” said Defontes.

In the President’s State of the Union address on January 20, Bush memorably stated: “Activist judges… have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people’s voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process.”

Upon hearing this, Defontes and Fye “felt we needed to do something.”

“Political posters were a perfect match [for us],” said Defontes, who runs an advertising agency.

 The partners’ goal became to design original, one-of-a-kind posters that advocate in favor of civil marriage for all couples. They hope to see Art for Equality develop into a large fundraising and events planning outfit.

“We’re reaching out to the arts community as a whole,” said Defontes. “We’d like to open up to all forms of art, video, and fine art, and to evolve as an organization.”

The Art for Equality fundraiser comes on the heels of another celebrity-packed benefit concert held in of support same-sex marriage. Wed-Rock at the Chelsea club Crobar last month featured performers including Margaret Cho, Lou Reed, and the drag queen Lady Bunny.

“What’s so touching,” said Evan Wolfson, “is that artists and organizations are coming to Freedom to Marry because they felt moved to do something to support marriage equality through their art.”

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