FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Artist Peggy Chun's cat Boo served as inspiration for these bottles decorated by artists Renee Fakhrai, left, Mariko Merritt, Scottie Flamm, Mapuana Schneider and Greg Gasper. On the walls behind them are works by Chun on view at the Kim Taylor Reece Gallery. The bottles will be auctioned off Thursday to help pay Chun's medical bills and to fund the battle against the disease that plagues her, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Artists unite to fight disease
The Chinatown arts district hosts three days of events to raise Lou Gehrig's disease awareness
You and your doctor have sons on the same soccer team. Your work mate is your best friend's cousin. The lady at the Longs Drug pharmacy turns out to be your sister's classmate. Welcome to life in Hawaii.
Art for ALS
A three-day benefit for Peggy Chun and the ALS Association.
» Thursday: Silent auction of limited edition "Boo" cat bottles, 5 to 8 p.m., Kim Taylor Reece Gallery, 1142 Bethel St. Plus an artist reception for Chun, whose work is on exhibit throughout August; and music by Sean Tiwanak. Call 546-1144.
» Friday: Benefit dinner, 5 to 8 p.m., Downtown Restaurant in the Hawaii State Art Museum, 250 S. Hotel St., with guest speakers and silent auction, plus entertainment by Makana. Tickets are $50, $750 per table. Call 548-5577.
» Saturday: Chinatown arts district promotes ALS awareness in galleries.
These discoveries usually lead to fond acquaintanceships and "Eh, you'll never guess ..." at the next family dinner. Sometimes, though, the ties that bind aren't happy coincidences.
For Rose Anne Jones, executive director of Hawaii Craftsmen, and Karen Capua of the Hawaii State Art Museum, the tie is a devastating one: relatives stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. The progressive neurodegenerative disease affects nerve cells in the brain and leads to paralysis. (Jones' brother-in-law, diagnosed with ALS last year, died last week.) The "face" of ALS for many decades locally was athlete Charlie Wedemeyer; in recent years, artist Peggy Chun has brought awareness since her diagnosis in 2002.
After realizing both their families had been affected, Jones and Capua responded in fine local form. With help from colleagues in the Chinatown arts district, they organized a three-day fundraiser for the ALS association and Chun.
"When Karen and I first talked, we couldn't believe how many people are affected. We wanted to raise funds for research because there is no cure," says Jones. "We also wanted some of the funds to go to Peggy, and to let people know Peggy's not alone out there with this disease."
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Chun directed students from Holy Trinity School in making a mosaic of Father Damien. A reproduction of the mosaic is also on display at the Kim Taylor Reece Gallery.
On Thursday at the Kim Taylor Reece Gallery, where a monthlong exhibit of Chun's art is under way, there will be a silent auction of "Boo" wine bottles (named for Chun's beloved cat) decorated by local artists and celebrities, such as Reece, Henry Kapono and Wyland. A benefit dinner takes place Friday, and on Saturday the arts district will promote ALS awareness in galleries.
Chun's daughter-in-law, Kimi Chun, says the fundraisers come at a crucial time, when the association seems "on the brink" of making gene therapy breakthroughs.
"We're consistently fundraising for Peggy," Kimi adds, explaining that Chun's livelihood never provided for health insurance.
As for Chun, the artist has directed art projects in recent years by using her eye movements to spell out directions. She is also painting watercolors with her nose. She directs helpers in mixing paint formulas and instructs them where to apply the various colors on paper.
"This is a fun experiment for Peggy," Kimi says. "She has a passion for color, and watercolors are unpredictable. It's a mystery what will turn out."
Reece says it's been tough for the art community to watch Chun go through ALS. "If there's anything we can do, we must. Peggy's inspired me in a lot of different ways. Her artwork is fun; she's made me see the humor in art and life and to not take myself so seriously. Her situation is serious but her artwork is uplifting."
"Peggy's amazing because this illness is devastating for everyone. But because she's an artist at heart, she's been able to continue on through her illness," Jones says. "What comes through in her paintings is joy. She's in touch with the joy in life."