Scene and Heard in L.A.
LOS ANGELES— Sometimes breaking into the "LA Scene" can be a daunting experience and more than slightly intimidating. Where does one start, and how? How does one venture out and meet new people, especially if you're new to the town, or simply a local looking to make new friends? I have recently discovered that a great way to do this is through volunteering. While taking an art history class at Santa Monica City College, a friend of mine learned about an opportunity to volunteer at an art auction being held by the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, LACE, one of the city's oldest, and most revered art organizations. Since we always talk about changing our routine and trying new things, she decided to sign us up. About a week later, I received a call from a volunteer coordinator, asking if I would be able to make it to a rehearsal dinner for the auction/gala.
There is something very fabulous about galas. Prior to this, I had never attended a gala, and even the word itself always evoked dazzling images of women in beautiful outfits, elegantly sipping wine and distinguished looking men talking about terribly important things. This could probably be explained by the fact that I grew up watching "Dynasty" and "Love Boat." Now I was being given the opportunity to go to my very first gala. Oh, what to wear?
Then the reason we were volunteering in the first place popped into my head. Wasn't the whole idea to meet other people? With that in mind, I headed out to LACE, located in the heart of Hollywood, on Hollywood Boulevard.
The rehearsal dinner was a casual way for the volunteers to see the Exhibition, get to know each other over pizza and sodas and learn about their assignments. More than 50 pieces were going to be auctioned off; a wide assortment of contemporary paintings, photographs and collages. One piece that struck me was a photograph of the intersection of Highland and Franklin, during rush hour traffic. It seemed to breathe the energy of the city, encapsulating the pace of everyday life in LA.
We learned that the art came from some of the city's most talented artists, new and well established. It was donated to LACE in order to help the organization meet its operational goals, and continue putting on events as it had been for the last 25 years.
The Night Of The Auction
A long white carpet stretched from LACE where the pre-auction was being held in the club next door, where dozens of chairs were set up to face a stage. Petra, the volunteer coordinator, created really interesting badges for the volunteers out of a silver material that looked as artsy as the place itself. A number of waiters walked around carrying trays with assortments of yummy goodies and a bar was unobtrusively set up in one of the corners. A DJ contributed funky beats to the atmosphere in the main room.
As an usher, my responsibility was to help direct the guests to the club where the auction was going to take place after the pre-auction ended. For the next hour or so, I mingled between the guests and other volunteers, occasionally asking the guests if they had any questions, but mostly getting to know the other volunteers. A tall lanky man who was also an usher, told me about losing 70 pounds after going vegan, over a grape leaf. I met two girls who had just graduated from high school and were volunteering in order to make new friends. At the bar, I bumped into an elderly woman wearing a press pass, from whom I learned about a new talk show which might offer me the possibility of future writing assignments and a restaurant opening later that night, where I would meet several members of the cast of "Friends." The "getting to know people" part of my night was going quite well. At around 8 p.m., the pre-auction was closed and the guests, equipped with Sotheby's paddles, began their walk down the white carpet to the club, where champagne was served.
After everyone was seated and the chairman of the board made a welcoming speech, the pieces began to slowly appear on stage. Like everything else that night, this was a sight all on its own. I was amazed to see that what looked like a blue piece of paper sold for well over a $1000, while a very unique four-piece went for around $700.
As the auction went on, the volunteers bonded over their favorite pieces and friendly bets about their selling price.
All in all, the whole night was a great experience. By volunteering, I got to meet a lot of interesting people, learn about a wonderful organization, of which I am now a member and expand my horizons. I also came to realize that people can get themselves into virtually any event by becoming a volunteer. So if that is your motive, or you're simply looking to meet new people, volunteering is a great way to accomplish both. For more information about LACE, you can visit them and view their art online at artleak.org.
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