Lonnie Stewart’s painting, “The Spirit Prevails,” is of a shiny jazz trombone rising out of the dark, murky waters brought on by Hurricane Katrina. His painting couldn’t have blasted a louder or more symbolic message of triumph at “Toast To The Coast,” last month’s downtown fundraiser for hurricane relief.

Lonnie’s own spirit, along with that of 30 other area artists—came through clearly during a silent art auction in the foyer of Kelleher’s Irish Pub and Eatery, located downstairs from the ArtsPartners office. Once the idea for a hurricane relief fundraiser was born and ArtsPartners joined the efforts, within the course of a week, our arts community rallied. And did they ever. Quick phone calls were made, and a flurry of e-mails went out, beginning with the swift and efficient work of three primary arts advocates: Constance Copeland, owner of the Monroe Gallery on the near north side; Amy Boettcher, special events coordinator at Luthy Botanical Gardens; and Don Rosser, president of the newly formed Bohemian Art Society, a group of independent artists that works together to enhance the local arts scene. These three art enthusiasts, without fanfare, got on the horn and requested from their individual circles of artists one original art item to be contributed to ArtsPartners’ silent auction.

And so in came donations such as jewelry, ceramics, blown glass, acrylic paintings, photographs, sculpture, wood carvings, watercolors, and sketchings. It was all delivered to ArtsPartners, and then off to the Kelleher’s foyer it went, where it was put on display. Late afternoon, when the fundraiser began, so did the artistic bidding wars—all in good spirit—and all for a good cause. Back and forth went the bids. Folks checked to see if theirs was still the top bid, then went back outside to enjoy New Orleans-style food and music.

As the ArtsPartners silent auction gathered its own energy and enthusiasm, Lonnie Stewart’s oil painting nearby, created specifically for the event, generating its own energy and flurry of high bids. Hanging on a wall just outside his art studio, Stewart’s trombone literally glowed with light.

By evening’s end, when the silent auction ended and thousands of dollars had been raised for hurricane relief, “Toast To The Coast” was a community hit, thanks to so many community organizers and contributors. Yet from where I sit on the second floor of Le Vieux Carre, I must extend a special thanks to our arts community, which gave so generously of their art as well as their hearts. Throughout the course of a week, I saw how Lonnie’s title proved utterly significant because on so many levels during “Toast To The Coast,” spirit had, indeed, prevailed. AA!