At this year’s Sculptural Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) Expo at Navy Pier, a man stood alone, framed by two large walls painted ashy shades of gray. Three words stood out in bold relief, collaged from photographs and cards. One wall reads LIFE, the other LOVE, and, at the corner where the two walls meet, the word FIGHT in a shock of red. The “living art” installation invited SOFA attendees to speak with HIV/AIDS survivor Jim Petrakis in honor of World AIDS Day on December 1.
LIFE : FIGHT : LOVE is the perfect encapsulation of the work done by the Chicago chapter of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA). It uses the creative fields of art and design to draw people into the fight against HIV/AIDS, raising both awareness and funds that provide direct service, preventative education, and outreach.
“As a designer, cutting my teeth in the late ‘80s, I knew people and clients who lost their lives to AIDS,” says Richard Cassis of Winnetka, an executive board member with DIFFA Chicago and one of the main designers responsible for LIFE : FIGHT : LOVE. “So it was something that hit close to home. It’s important to keep the passion alive for the eradication of AIDS. We’re so close to a cure, our goal is to keep that urgency there. Art for Life Chicago is a new way to do that.”
The Art for Life Chicago auction on March 22 is a juried exhibition of works donated to the cause by both emerging and established artists from all over the world, working in a myriad of mediums.
The panel of jurors responsible for narrowing down more than 350 artwork submissions to the final selection hails from all across the art world, including Jerry Saltz, the senior art critic at New York Magazine, and directors, curators, and exhibit designers from organizations like the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of New Art, and EXPO CHICAGO.
On the night of the event, all of the pieces are available for purchase via silent auction, with five special pieces available during a live bid. Twenty percent of each artwork sale goes to the artist and the remaining proceeds support the mission of DIFFA Chicago.
“We’re very focused about how we raise money and about which audiences we talk to and appeal to, but also where the money ends up going,” Cassis says.
The Art for Life Chicago auction becomes a second avenue for DIFFA Chicago to reach out to people who want to align their interests in the creative industries and philanthropic outreach. Every June for nearly 30 years, they host a gala on the eve of the opening of NeoCon in the Merchandise Mart, one of the largest commercial interiors trade shows in the world. That gala brings together design professionals in fields such as interior design, architecture, fashion, and contract furnishings.
“The Art for Life Chicago auction is the time where we specifically narrow our focus to fine art,” Cassis says. “It’s geared more toward the art
lover, whether they’re artists, collectors, or philanthropists. It’s about having people support DIFFA while finding something that they love for themselves. It’s ‘Art for Life.’ We’re celebrating life and, hopefully, the eradication of AIDS.”
The Art for Life Chicago auction will be at Venue One in Chicago on March 22. For tickets, visit artforlifechicago.org.