Clients were the stars at three big Austin benefits

It’s a delicate maneuver to book a charity’s client to speak at a benefit event. After all, they usually are not practiced public speakers. And without the intervening filter of an edited video, pathos too easily could turn to bathos.

Yet nonprofits are taking that chance more often. In three recent and very different cases, it was extremely effective.

Melanie Barnes and Melba Whatley at ‘Words of Hope’ dinner for Caritas of Austin. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

For instance, during the “Words of Hope” dinner for Caritas, one could hardly beat the soaring but grounded rhetoric of Lynn and Tom Meredith, winners of the Harvey Penick Award. Their message of inclusion, collaboration and innovation as part of Austin problem-solving should be distributed to everyone who shares a love for this city.

RELATED: Austin couple shares the secrets of civic leadership.

Yet it was formerly homeless client of Caritas who also held the hundreds of guests in her spell. She grew up in an abusive household and married into one. Her life on the streets included acts which she now cannot bear to mention. For the first time in her long life, she lives in a safe, clean place of her own, thanks to Caritas and its partners. Powerful stuff.

Roberto Varela, Nico Ramsey and Johnny Devora at ‘Building Healthy Futures’ luncheon for AIDS Services of Austin. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Similarly, at the “Building Healthy Futures” luncheon for Aids Services of Austin, a parade of speakers and videos briskly and efficiently made the case for the nonprofit’s efforts to end new HIV cases in the coming decade or so. Nobody harnesses the power of numbers and graphs like this group, which recently opened its one-stop ASA Moody Medical Clinic.

RELATED: Clinic is one-stop center to help treat, prevent HIV.

All this was upstaged by two women — one transexual — who told their contrasting life stories linked together by HIV status. They were identified as Foxy and Charlotte. The first described her life on the streets — euphemistically a “social worker” — with trenchant wit. The other was quiet, serious as she talked about the special challenges for her family.

Dionne and K.C. Barner at ‘Imaginarium’ for the Thinkery. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Lastly, the “Imaginarium” for the Thinkery always promises a circus-like offering of educational entertainment. Thus we witnessed the vintage tools of the Daniel G. Benes Science Show and the electrifying — up to a point — Tesla coils of Arcattack. (Repetition does not always increase attraction.)

RELATED: Putting the think into the Thinkery.

Again, it was two Thinkery clients, Kendall Farr and Caleb Farr, who, through clever videos made the best case for the hugely popular outfit formerly known as the children’s museum. (At least I assume the Farr siblings are Thinkery regulars.) These bantering kids dressed scientific costumes are so talented, let’s hope they continue to show us exactly what it means to teach and to please.

 

Tim Gunn reveals why he left ‘Project Runway’ at Austin luncheon

During easily the best Jewel Fashion Luncheon ever for the Women’s Symphony League, former “Project Runway” host Tim Gunn met briefly with fans in a side room, then spent a full hour on stage sharing life stories — including his reasons for leaving the show — with several hundred transfixed guests at the Hyatt Regency Austin.

Sharon Chapman and Tim Gunn at the Jewel Fashion Luncheon for the Women’s Symphony League. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

After a lovely, truncated fashion show staged among the lunch tables with apparel from Neiman Marcus, Austin singer, producer and radio host Sarajane Mela Dailey asked Gunn questions. As she does in performance, Dailey waited — alert and alive to possibility, without stealing focus — until it time came to pose each adroit query with just the right tone.

RELATED: America might need Tim Gunn now more than ever.

Dapper and open as always, Gunn spoke on four topics.

  1. His youth as he studied classical piano, while planning to become an architect. How e dropped out of architecture school to study painting, then was forced to take a sculpture class that turned out to be his 3-dimensional métier.
  2. His time as a teacher and administrator, brought into the Parsons School of Design to head the fashion program, only to find it was “not a design school, but a dressmaking school.” He radically restructured the curriculum and a signature fashion-show benefit in order to prepare the students for the real world, where they would be expected to be entrepreneurs who could think critically and handle any design puzzle. How dare he? “You’ve got to tell the truth.” He also introduced to much resistance mannikins that were “gazelle thin,” which not only helped students design for real clients, but also foreshadowed the variety of model shapes on “Project Runway.”
  3. The early days of “Project Runway,” when he was highly skeptical of the reality contest until he learned that they would be using actual designers, not people off the street. He wasn’t supposed to appear on camera. When they asked Gunn to ask questions of the designers in the studio while they, he expected that his part would end up on the editing floor. After all, this is what he did with Parsons students without calling attention to himself. Of course, with Heidi Klum, he became the unquestioned costar of the show and a role model for all teachers.
  4. The end of his time on “Project Runway” began in the spring. The new season was ready to go. Then he and Klum found out through young relatives by way of social media that the show was headed back to Bravo, its original home, from Lifetime. After a period of silence from the networks, their agents informed them on an offer of 60 percent less salary than they were making before. To the Bravo execs, these two idols were “old and stale.” So Gunn and Klum accepted an offer from Amazon to create a new fashion show. Details to come.

The best Austin parties before the big fall festivals begin

We’re only days away from the Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park, if you can believe that. Other big fall fests are not far behind.

These are some of the Austin parties and other events I hope to squeeze into my schedule in the coming week.

Taylor Mac will appear at UT McCullough Theatre. Contributed

Sept. 26: Charles Umlauf Home & Studio Tour. Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum.

Don’t miss this rare chance to see the sculptor’s hilltop home and studio.

Sept. 27-28: Texas Tribune Festival. Various Locations.

Top political figures and others speak on national and global matters.

Sept. 27-28: Taylor Mac’s “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Abridged).” UT McCullough Theatre.

A mash-up of music, history that covers 240 years of American social history.

Sept. 28: Fête and Fêt*ish for Ballet Austin. JW Marriott Hotel.

One of the city’s prettiest galas transforms into a dance party when the clock strikes a certain hour. 

Sept. 28: Celebration of Life Luncheon for Seton Breast Cancer Center. Fairmount Hotel.

The city’s women join in solidarity for this fashionable but serious luncheon.

Sept. 29: Mike Quinn Awards Luncheon from the Headliners Foundation. Headliners Club.

Journalists are lionized at one of the city’s oldest private clubs.

Sept. 29: Booker T. Washington Day. Wooldridge Square Park.

Speech by Booker T. Washington restaged amid historical interpretations of the square.

Sept. 29-30: Austin Shakespeare presents staged reading of “Antony and Cleopatra.” Austin Ventures Studio.

Franchelle S. Dorn and Robert Ramirez in the title roles are the big draws for this very limited run.

Austin Book Arts Center reaches out in the most endearing way

The Austin Book Arts Center didn’t ask for $50 million.

Or $5 million.

Or $500,000.

Or $50,000.

Dave Sullivan and Surya Veeraraghavan at the Austin Book Arts Center benefit.

The backers of this group that engages folks in the art of making books — no, not bookmaking, that’s something else — requested a total of $15,000 to help them move from their studio at the undone Flatbed Press building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to new digs.

Aided by the deliciously dry humor of leader Mary Baughmam, formerly a conservator at the Ransom Center, the center’s benefit at the Austin Central Public Library was an endearingly grassroots affair.

RELATED: Austin’s new Central Library is a place of consequence.

Library system Director Roosevelt Weeks welcomed the casually attired band of adults and children. Soothing music, scrumptious sandwiches, lively activities — they all combined to make one linger and contemplate the gifts this group has already given our city.

And how one can help the center reach its modest goal.

ASA Moody Medical Clinic is a one-stop center to help treat, prevent HIV

Crusading for a time when the rate of new HIV cases in our area drops to zero, AIDS Services of Austin ceremoniously unveiled its new one-stop ASA Moody Medical Clinic on Cameron Road on Monday.

Ross Moody, Greg Casar and Kathie Tovo at the opening of the ASA Moody Medical Clinic. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Generously supported by the Moody Family Foundation — which recently made the critical differences for major projects by the Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria, Waller Creek Conservancy and Pease Park Conservancy — the clinic is aimed at the 7,000 people in our area already with HIV, including the 20 percent who don’t know it yet. Still others may use it during the HIV prevention process.

RELATED: Volunteer logs almost 3 decades at AIDS Walk.

Surrounded by ASA staff and volunteers, dignitaries including U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and City Council Members Greg CasarOra Houston and Jimmy Flannigan applauded the nonprofit’s progress on what 30 years ago seemed like an impossible campaign to fight AIDS and help those living with it. Now ASA employs 70 people, many of them at the Cameron Road location, as well as at a dental clinic and remote prevention sites. A new one is planned for the area around Airport Boulevard and Springdale Road.

One of the most impressive sights hidden from the public at the Cameron Road HQ is ASA’s food bank, which began with distributions from the trunk of a car, and now looks like a miniature but substantial version of Capitol Area Food Bank.

 

Best Austin parties after Labor Day, Game Day

We survived Labor Day and Game Day and now it’s time for the great Austin social machine to crank it up.

These are some upcoming parties I hope to make.

Sept. 9: Picnic Bombazo for Puerto Rican Cultural Center. 701 Tillery St.

Sept. 10: Opening of ASA Moody Medical Clinic. 7215 Cameron Road.

Sept. 13: I Saw the Future, There Are Books” for Austin Book Arts Center. Austin Central Public Library.

Sept. 13: Red Dot Art Spree. Women & Theatre Work Gallery.

Sept. 13: The Fabulous People Party for YWCA Greater Austin. Gather Venues Monroe Street.

Sept. 13: 1968: The Year the Dream Died” reception. Briscoe Center for American History.

Sept. 14-15: Austin Symphony season-opening concert. Long Center.

Sept. 14: “Wide Open Spaces: Texas Landscapes by Gay Gaddis” reception. Submerge Art Gallery.

Sept. 16: Authentic Mexico for the Hispanic Alliance. Long Center.

Sept. 16: Seed & Thread Gala for the Filigree Theatre. Treaty Oak Distillery.

Sept. 17: Roger Comes to Austin: A Conversation with Andy Roddick and Roger Federer for the Andy Roddick Foundation. Paramount Theatre.

Sept. 18: “Passport to your Dreams” for the Dream Come True Foundation. Brodie Homestead.

UT’s Latin American Collection is a wonder of the library world

The Nettie Benson Latin American Collection is a University of Texas treasure you should get to know better.

Leslie Montoya, Maria Farahani and Ernesto Rios at a UT dinner for The Benson Latin American Collection.

Founded almost 100 years ago in 1921 with the acquisition of Mexican historian and bibliophile Genaro García‘s library, it grew vastly under the direction of UT professor Carlos Castañeda — partial namesake for the Perry-Castañeda Library — then under historian Nettie Lee Benson. For decades, the Collection has been the finest and most complete library of its kind in the Americas.

When I did research there in the 1980s for my doctoral dissertation, it was referred to by scholars as the “Library of Congress for Latin America.” Sort of like the Ransom Center across campus, its leaders had collected so many books, manuscripts and other objects in its chosen fields, people travel from around the world to visit it.

Crucially, it houses materials that back up some of what was lost in the recent fire that gutted the Brazil Museum.

The Collection, as well as its intimate partner, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, are now receiving more attention locally.

At “An Evening for Discovery,” a recent benefit dinner at the AT&T Center, I ran into many old and new friends, including Maria Cisne Farahani, the woman behind Fara Coffee, which benefits workers in her native Nicaragua (we talked about the brisk change in political will in that country); Monica Peraza, who updated me on the latest at the Long Center, where she now captains the board of directors; attorney and event host Becky Beaver, who is becoming one of the Benson’s most eloquent promoters; Leslie Montoya, a local Univision reporter; Ernesto Rois, who is in the medical parts business (I don’t think that’s the right term, but you understand); and Adriana Pacheco Roldán, a scholar who, with Fernando Macias-Garza, gave $50,000 for an endowment to kick off the Benson’s centennial celebration.

RELATED: We bow before these honorees, including Maria Cisne Farahani.

East Austin mural, pool dance among Preservation Austin award winners

Plagued by congested traffic? High cost of living? Persistent inequity? Those pesky scooters?

Whenever the New Austin Blues get you down, turn to Preservation Austin and especially its annual Merit Awards. The Old Austin triumphs of stewardship, invention and rehabilitation are sometimes small, but every year, they add up.

This year’s winners include three major 19th-century structures, several homes large and small, some updated commercial buildings, an East Austin mural, a dance about community, two singular park structures and a distinguished architectural historian.

These fine people, places, culture and history will be honored at the Preservation Merit Awards Celebration at the Driskill Hotel on Friday, Oct. 19 from 11:30am to 1:30pm. It’s a treat.

2018 PRESERVATION MERIT AWARD RECIPIENTS

220 South Congress Avenue. Contributed by Gensler.

220 SOUTH CONGRESS – Bouldin

Recipient: Cielo Property Group

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Gensler

308 W. 35th St. Contributed by Preservation Austin

308 E. 35th – North University

Recipient: Steven Baker and Jeff Simecek

Preservation Award for Addition

409 Colorado St. Contributed by Clayton Holmes, Forge Craft Architect + Design

409 COLORADO – Downtown

Recipient: David Zedeck

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Forge Craft Architecture + Design

Austin State Hospital. Contributed by Nathan Barry, Braun & Butler Construction

AUSTIN STATE HOSPITAL

Recipient: Health & Human Services Commission

Preservation Award for Restoration

Contractor: Braun & Butler Construction

Collier House. Contributed by Andrew Calo

COLLIER HOUSE – Bouldin

Recipient: Georgia Keith

Preservation Award for Addition

Architect: Elizabeth Baird Architecture & Design

For La Raza. Contributed by Philip Rogers

“FOR LA RAZA” – Holly

Recipient: Arte Texas, Art in Public Places, Parks and Recreation Department & Austin Energy

Preservation Award for Preservation of a Cultural Landscape

Robert Herrera and Oscar Cortez

O. Henry Hall. Contributed by O’Connell Architecture

O.HENRY HALL – Downtown

Recipient: Texas State University System

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Lawrence Group, O’Connell Architecture

Oakwood Chapel. Contributed by Preservation Austin

OAKWOOD CEMETERY CHAPEL

Recipient: City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department

Preservation Award for Restoration

Architect: Hatch + Ulland Owen Architects

RELATED: Austin dedicates sublime Oakwood Chapel.

Solarium. Contributed by Casey Woods Photography

SOLARIUM – Old West Austin

Recipient: Don Kerth

Preservation Award for Addition

Architect: Jobe Corral Architects

Sparks House. Contributed by Preservation Austin

SPARKS HOUSE – Judges Hill

Recipient: Suzanne and Terry Burgess

Preservation Award for Restoration

St. Edward’s University Main Building. Contributed by ArchiTexas

EDWARDS UNIVERSITY MAIN BUILDING + HOLY CROSS HALL

Recipient: St. Edwards University

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation and Restoration

Architect: Baldridge Architects, Architexas

RELATED: Sister Donna Jurick leaves St. Ed’s a better place.

Tucker-Winfield Apartments. Contributed by Preservation Austin

TUCKER-WINFIELD APARTMENTS – Downtown

Recipient: Elayne Winfield Lansford

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: O’Connell Architecture

RELATED: New life for a 1939 gem.

Twin Houses. Contributed by Casey Woods Photography

TWIN HOUSES – Delwood 2

Recipient: Ada Corral and Camille Jobe

Preservation Award for Addition

Architect: Jobe Corral Architects

E.P. Wilmot House. Contributed by Preservation Austin

P. WILMOT HOUSE – Downtown

Recipient: John C. Horton III

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

Architect: Clayton & Little

Zilker Caretaker Cottage. Contributed City of Austin Parks & Recreation

ZILKER CARETAKER COTTAGE

Recipient: Austin Parks & Recreation Department

Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

RELATED: Life in the middle of Zilker Park.

Beta Xi House. Contributed by Preservation Austin

BETA XI HOUSE ASSOCIATION – University of Texas

for Stewardship of the Beta Xi Kappa Kappa Gamma House

“My Park, My Pool, My City.” Contributed by Rae Fredericks, Forklift Dancworks

FORKLIFT DANCEWORKS

Special Recognition for “My Park, My Pool, My City”

Contributed

PHOEBE ALLEN

Lifetime Achievement

RELATED: Where did the Chisholm Trail cross the Colorado?

Need inspiration? Try UT-student cyclists going the distance for cancer research

If you can resist the exaltation of the annual Texas 4000 Tribute Dinner, you are made of sterner stuff than I.

Texas 4000 for Cancer was founded in 2004 by Chris Condit, a Hodgin’s lymphoma survivor who appeared at the charity dinner at the Hyatt Regency Austin on Friday looking as if he just graduated from the University of Texas.

Hannah Knaup and Graham Bryan at Texas 4000 Tribute Gala. Knaup rode this year and encountered a bear with cubs on the trail in Alaska. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Each year, more than 60 UT students make the 70-day, 4,687 mile trek via one of three routes — Sierras, Rockies and Ozarks. Crucial to each trip, the young men and women focus on the people for whom they ride. They work as teams — virtually everyone makes it — and they stay as guests, often of UT alums along the way.

I came in around the time of the first Tribute Dinner and could not resist the electric vibe shared by riders past, present and future, as well as their volunteers, backers, staff, directors and fans — some of whom were honored during the dinner with the Chairman’s Pin Awards, handed out by Wes Carberry.

So far the group has netted $8.4 million for cancer research, with an aim to reach $10 million by 2020. They also make incredible videos that would be envy of any nonprofit in the country. The variety of backgrounds and experiences among the students — some haven’t ridden road bikes before — is astounding.

Just one more thing that makes UT singular.

Best parties as Austin social season kicks into gear

Austin’s social season picks up again next week after the icy blast of the Ice Ball and Texas 4000 Tribute Dinner and a few other late summer enticements.

RELATED: Catch the best parties of the new Austin social season.

Sept. 5: Red Shoe Luncheon for Ronald McDonald House. Brazos Hall. rmhc-ctx.org.

Sept. 6: An Evening of Discovery for UT LLILAS/Benson Latin American Collection. AT&T Center. Benson Collection.

Sept. 7: The Big Give for I Live Here, I Give Here. Hotel Van Zandt. ilivehereigivehere.org/the-big-give.

Sept. 9: Long Center Birthday Bash with Grupo Fantasma. Long Center. thelongcenter.org.