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Artworks to Benefit History Project

by Matthew S. Bajko
Monday Dec 16, 2013
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Colton Windsor holds a Rainbow Honor Walk pin, for sale at the Human Rights Campaign store on Castro Street
Colton Windsor holds a Rainbow Honor Walk pin, for sale at the Human Rights Campaign store on Castro Street  (Source:Rick Gerharter)

The estate of a deceased Castro artist has donated a number of her portraits of denizens of the gayborhood toward the fundraising effort for a sidewalk-based LGBT history project.

The 16 watercolors and drawings by Beth Van Hoesen, who died in 2010 at the age of 84, will be on display starting in January at the George Krevsky Gallery. Her works normally sell for $12,000 to $15,000.

The portraits, four of which have duplicates, will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for purchase via a donation of more than $10,000 to the Rainbow Honor Walk.

The history project aims to install plaques honoring famous and accomplished LGBT people in the sidewalks throughout San Francisco’s Castro district. The bronze markers for the first set of 20 honorees will be installed as part of the sidewalk-widening project for Castro Street scheduled to begin in February.

Boosters of the walk need to raise $100,000 to pay for the initial 20 plaques being produced by Berkeley-based Mussi Artworks Foundry. They have already surpassed the $25,000 mark thanks in part to three $5,000 donations and an Indiegogo campaign that netted $5,500.

The Human Rights Campaign at its Castro Street store has been selling special pins to raise funds for the Rainbow Honor Walk. Later this month the HRC store will also be selling mugs featuring the first 20 inductees to benefit the project.

The batch of Van Hoesen artworks could net more than $200,000 if the special sale is successful.

Asked if he was confident the honor walk will raise enough money to pay for the first plaques by Pride 2014, when they are expected to be unveiled to the public, project co-founder David Perry stated "absolutely," noting that the project is in talks with additional funders who have expressed an interest.

"I have no doubt we will have the rest of it by Pride," said Perry, who owns his own public relations firm and teamed up with gay Castro business owner Isak Lindenauer four years ago to push for the creation of the Rainbow Honor Walk.

Van Hoesen and her husband of 52 years, artist Mark Adams, who died in 2006, had lived in an old firehouse on 22nd Street in the Castro. It became known as the Firehouse studio as the couple hosted drawing classes there and had their own studios in the home.

In addition to her beloved portraits of animals - one of a rabbit called "Sally" and that of a rooster called "Boris" are among her most famous works- Van Hoesen liked to walk around the Castro finding individuals to draw. She was particularly enamored with drag queens, and her portraits of members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence charitable group and the late Jose Sarria, the founder of the Imperial Court system who died in August at the age of 90, are among those available for purchase next month.

In an emailed statement to the Bay Area Reporter , Mary Connors, the longtime personal assistant to Van Hoesen and Adams, stated that, "Beth was always excited when the Sisters were coming to sit for her. She enjoyed them, and found them so interesting to draw. She was fascinated by their costumes and makeup. She was also impressed with their activism in the community. She loved anything out of the ordinary."

In her will Van Hoesen stipulated that a portion of her artworks be sold to benefit an LGBT charity. Local artist Diane Roby, who worked with Van Hoesen to inventory her artworks for her estate, has long been friends with Perry and called him to inquire about an appropriate LGBT beneficiary.

"I was aware of the Rainbow Honor Walk but didn’t know how far along they were. It ended up being very good timing," said Roby.

Anne Kohs, the executor of Van Hoesen’s estate, then contacted the artist’s heirs, several nieces who live on the East Coast, who were "thrilled" with the suggestion, said Roby.

"One was telling me that when she was young she would be visiting Beth and there would be a knock on the door. A handsome man would be there. They would let him in and he would go straight into the bathroom. Then an incredibly flamboyant, gorgeous woman would walk out of the bathroom and sit for Beth," recalled Roby.

The gallery has posted images of the 16 artworks, that also include several portraits of punks from a series Van Hoesen did in 1988, on its website at http://georgekrevskygallery.com/dynamic/exhibit_detail.asp?ExhibitID=207.

They will be on display at the gallery, located on the second floor at 77 Geary Street, January 3 through February 1.

In addition to buying the artwork outright, anyone who donates between $1,500 and $10,000 to the Rainbow Honor Walk will be able to select a limited-edition print of Van Hoesen’s work. The gallery is forgoing its usual commission but will keep 10 percent of the donation to cover its marketing costs and other expenses, said Perry.

Roby and gallery manager Lori Sottile co-curated the show, which will have additional works from Van Hoesen’s series of Castro portraits available for purchase through the gallery and a portion of each sale benefiting the Rainbow Honor Walk.

"We very much believe in the project," said Krevsky, who is straight and lived in the Castro for several years in the mid 1970s.

First plaque to be unveiled
The first completed plaque honoring the disco star Sylvester, a Castro resident who died of AIDS complications in 1988, is set to be unveiled next week during a private preview with the artist who created their design.

It was announced last fall that Venezuelan-born architect Carlos Casuso had won an international competition to create the look of the plaques. Casuso happens to be Perry’s brother-in-law, and Perry learned that he had entered the contest after a jury chose Casuso’s submission as the winning entry. He disclosed their family ties to the Rainbow Honor Walk’s steering committee prior to its voting to accept the jury’s decision.

The event will also acknowledge the trio of donors who each gave $5,000 to the project: local philanthropist Al Baum, Herth Real Estate, and Brand X Antiques on Castro Street.

Following the event the plaque will be publicly displayed at the HRC store as a way to boost sales of the pins ($6 with $5 donated to the walk) and the mugs ($19.50 with $10 donated to the walk). HRC sales associate Colton Windsor, 54, who also serves on the advisory board for the Rainbow Honor Walk, was instrumental in having the national LGBT rights group help fundraise for the LGBT history project.

Windsor became involved with the walk because he liked that it is celebrating LGBT accomplishments rather than commemorating tragedies the community has endured.

"This is such a wonderful thing," said Windsor, adding that he is an "avid believer in our history being the basis for our future. I want future generations to appreciate where we have been and where we are headed."

For more information about the Rainbow Honor Walk and a full list of the first 20 inductees, visit http://www.rainbowhonorwalk.org. On December 20 fundraising appeals for each individual plaque will launch on Indiegogo.

Copyright Bay Area Reporter. For more articles from San Francisco's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.ebar.com

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