A little taste of San Luis Obispo culture could be found at Edna Valley Vineyards on Saturday night in the form of the Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention (SARP) Center’s signature fundraising event, Evening with an Artist.
“We have been doing this now for eight years and every year we have one artist that has a name and place in the community,” administrative assistant and event organizer Krista Stafford said. “We really just wanted to bring awareness to the SARP Center and make it an event where people can see the amazing things going on in the county.”
Normally, the SARP Center calls for artists in the surrounding community to find the featured artist for the event. Artists then submit a few pieces of their artwork for review.
“This year, we knew who it was going to be without having to do a call for artists,” Stafford said. “Lena had donated stuff in the past for the silent auction, and she was an important candidate last year.”
Featured artist Lena Rushing describes her style as figurative expressionism and surrealism. Her painting process is more focused on the feel of the story rather than details.
“When I am painting, I am really going for the story and symbolism and the overall feeling of the painting and I am not really laboring intensively over the accuracy of every single thing,” Rushing said.
Her artwork mainly features images of women and animals interacting in a surreal way.
“My image of choice is the female figure,” Rushing said. “What I try to show in the paintings are strong women, and so that also relates to people who are going to the SARP Center and seeking strength or sharing their strength.”
Rushing primarily uses acrylic paints, but also is expanding to mixed media in shadow boxes. She combines the different mediums by using her original painting as the backgrounds, while incorporating reclaimed items.
This year, Evening with an Artist featured two different artists. The other was Baxter Moerman, a jewelry store located in downtown San Luis Obispo that has donated to the SARP Center before through its in-store, bi-annual fundraising event.
The store’s style of the jewelry is organic and inspired by nature.
“We make everything in the back that we sell in the front,” Max Moerman, co-owner of Baxter Moerman, said. “Most other jewelry stores buy jewelry from other designers. We are more like a European store because everything is our own style that we sell.”
A 25-percent portion of every piece of jewelry sold during Saturday’s event was given to the SARP Center.
The event also featured a silent auction, 11 caterers, a raffle for a weekend getaway in Mammoth and live music provided by The Honeycombs and Reese Galido Trio.
“It has become a staple in the community,” former executive director of SARP Jennifer Adams said. “Now they have two artists, different musicians, more caterers then there ever have been. People expect this event every year and it’s a great way to come out and support.”
Not only is Evening with an Artist the biggest fundraising event of the year for the SARP Center, but it also acts as a way to get more information about the center out to the community.
“Fundraising events are one of those things that of course you want to raise money, but it also acts as a way to raise awareness,” Adams said. “It’s kind of a two-fold thing.”
The SARP Center is San Luis Obispo County’s only rape crisis center. It offers a 24-hour hotline answered by volunteers trained in counseling to let those in need know about the different resources available and what steps they can take. It also provides one-on-one counseling for rape survivors and their loved ones.
SARP differs from other agencies in that it is are not required to report the sexual assault case to law enforcement. The center can keep what the survivor tells them completely confidential, SARP Center interim executive director Jesse Torrey said.
In addition to raising money for SARP, the event also provided a platform to announce their newest public awareness campaign called “Start by Believing” that will launch in February.
The idea behind the campaign is that a survivor of sexual assault will most likely tell someone close to them, a family member or friend, first. If this person does not believe them or thinks that they were somehow asking for it by the way they were dressed or acting, the survivor will be more likely to keep it themselves.
“That first response of that person affects the outcome of the situation,” Cuesta College student and SARP volunteer Brenda Garcia said. “If they don’t believe them, it is unlikely the survivor will report the incident and more likely that the perpetrator will assault someone again.”