Fundraising for Art Brothers Project Begins at RTPI | News, Sports, Jobs
WESTFIELD – A new kind of fundraising for the Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s Art Journey and Art Lab kicks off this Friday, thanks to Denise Williams Stebbins.
Stebbins runs an art auction, titled The “Art brothers project” to be held in his gallery, Living Glass Gallery in Westfield. She started fundraising efforts for RTPI and what is now called the “Art brothers project” after two of her grandchildren, Brennen Bereda and Finley Bereda, were in a car accident in 2017.
“The product will benefit the art trail here and the art lab here”, said Stebbins. “It was sort of our vision four years ago to have a memorial for my two grandchildren, Brennan Bereda and Finley Bereda, who lost their lives and we wanted something positive. My daughter and her husband. always took the kids for hikes, and they really enjoyed nature, and I was an art teacher at Silver Creek… and one of my favorite things to do was teaching my students Roger Tory Peterson, mainly because he was an illustrator, photographer, environmentalist – he really did it all He started at a young age and kids could really relate to that so I couldn’t think of a better place to put the memorial here.
Stebbins said his grandson, Brennan, was “A lot like Roger Tory Peterson” and was “very curious about nature.”
In previous years, Stebbins organized a 5 km run / walk to benefit the RTPI Art Trail; however, the pandemic has put a damper on that. This year, her grandson, Jordan, inspired her to host the auction after hosting her own art sale with her friend at their lemonade stand. Jordan and his companion “Brother of the arts” live in Missouri. The couple created a large banner, declaring themselves the “Brothers of the Art” at their ephemeral art sale.
“They sold their artwork – their little pictures – to a lemonade stand they had in front of,” she said. “So I decided to call it the ‘Art Brothers Project’, just because I thought it was a really good idea. So I have artists from all over the county and mostly local artists who have donated their work and we’re going to have a silent auction. I asked my grandson, Jordan, and his boyfriend, Will, to send their artwork as well.
Some local teens also donate their work for the event. The auction will take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. on Friday. The auctions will close at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Currently, the fundraising effort will focus on commissioning a sculpture of two children running the Art Trail, which will be created by local artist, Vince Liuzzo.
Arthur Pearson, CEO of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, said it has been an honor and a privilege to work on the project with Stebbins.
“I got into this about a year and a half ago”, Pearson said. “The resilience of the human spirit can be mind-blowing at times, because of an unimaginable tragedy, this is a family that, as Denise said, wanted to leave a positive legacy and get something positive out of it. This in itself is a heroic act and it blows my mind. We’re working really hard to try to honor and marry the ideas Denise brought to RTPI with what we’re trying to imagine here.
He said their goals overlapped quite a bit, including involving children in the arts and nature. Pearson said Roger Tory Peterson’s life reflected these goals, which is why RTPI took that direction.
“This is exactly what we want to do – we really want to do something important about this connection between art and nature”, he said.
Pearson said RTPI hired Liuzzo to create six sculptures to place around the art trail that kids can “discover” on their hike, which includes a twinkle, moth, and other natural-themed sculptures. The art trail then connects to the art lab where kids can then draw something they discovered during their hike on the dry erase wall. The institute also hired local artist Erin Ruffino to paint a large mural in the art lab, which was recently unveiled.
Stebbins said it was satisfying to see the efforts pay off, but the heartbreak over the loss of his grandchildren did not end.
“I wish I could say, ‘Oh, that makes me feel so much better'” she said. “I just feel like something needs to be done – you can’t just not do something. Being their grandmother, I can’t give them birthday presents anymore and I can’t go to the celebrations in their life, but it’s something I can do.
For those who can’t make it to the art auction, Stebbins said donations can be made to the Bereda Children’s Memorial through the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. She said the donation can be made through their website at www.crcfonline.org.