September 29, 2010

Bird House Auction Set to Fly

(click for larger version)
This year, the 6th Annual Artist Bird House Auction, an important and fun event benefiting the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Southampton Hospital, is slated for Saturday, October 9, from 5:30 to 8 PM at the Karen Mannix Contemporary Gallery, located on Hampton Road in Southampton.

Community members, including some very famous artists and celebrities, have crafted unique birdhouses for the public to bid on. Luminaries such as actress Rene Zellweger, designer Betsey Johnson (event co-chairs) and artists such as Dan Rizzie, Grant Hafner, Eric Ernst, and Sara Nightingale have contributed birdhouses this year.

Southampton Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer's office is not just filled with historical documents and other work-related décor – a flock of bird houses is ensconced in her Town Hall digs.

Nestled on her windowsill are a wide array of colorful and artfully bedecked aviary abodes – reflecting not only Schermeyer's eye for the artistic, but also, her commitment to a life-saving cause.

Scores of East End residents have become ardent attendees and supporters of the annual bird house auction that seeks to support those with breast cancer.

As Schermeyer, who has been an enthusiastic attendee at past Bird House auctions, can attest, the bidding for unusual and spectacular creations – bird houses are designed by artists, builders, celebrities and architects – can get fierce. Last year, Schermeyer and a patron were involved in an all out bidding war for a birdhouse – Shermeyer swooped in at the last second to snag the coveted bird sanctuary.

In total, she won four bird houses last year. Thrilled with her collection, Schermeyer is an advocate of breast cancer awareness causes. "My great-aunt lost her life to breast cancer that went undetected; it was very sad," she said. And, she added, her husband lost his mother to breast cancer when he was only 17 and she was in her 40s. "We try and support breast cancer efforts," she said.

Of her extensive bird house collection, she said, "I just think they're fun – they create a nice atmosphere. They're fun to look at – and uplifting works of art."

Each year, Schermeyer bids on pieces by local artist – and founder of the town's bocce league – Steve Marciw. But she collects other artists, as well, and is known to pull out all the stops to secure pieces she covets. "There's a strategy," to the bidding, she laughs. ""You'd better be ready to exercise your wallet, because it's all for a good cause."

Bidding on bird houses commences by silent auction and with each bid, "the amount made in donations increases," said Schermeyer.

One year, she remembers, she was bidding against a friend for the same bird house. After the auction, she recalled, the friend said, "I have good and bad news. The bad news is you lost – the good news is I'm giving you the bird house as a gift."

Each auction, said Schermeyer, "is a lot of fun," filled with caring and giving individuals gathered to try and make a difference.

Organized and created by artist Karyn Mannix, the annual event kicked off six years ago, a year after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Mannix decided on bird houses as the theme of the fundraiser when she and others were "trying to decide what to do that would be collectible." The walls in the room where the organizational meeting was held, she said, "were covered with trees and birds - We thought, 'Perfect! Bird houses,'" she said.

Although this year's event was "downscaled, due to the economy," Mannix said the meaning and mission remain the same – helping women through their journey with breast cancer.

Mannix said she was one of the "lucky ones," who was diagnosed through a normal mammogram. Today, she is cancer free and stresses the critical importance of self-examination and early detection. And she has devoted herself to "one way I could give back and help other people."

Funds raised through the event are utilized by the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center to help women in a hands-on, tangible way, after their diagnosis. "This is very personal – this helps them through so many different avenues. If they need rides back and forth from radiation and chemo – those rides are covered. If they need someone to clean house because they are not well, we send in someone to clean. That's what this is for – it's more of a personal touch."

Mannix says, in addition, the advanced equipment offered by the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center is critical – it was cutting edge technology that helped doctors to spot her tiny lump before it was outwardly detectable. "They helped me out a lot – the technology detected my breast cancer early."

Celebrities Rene Zellweiger and Betsy Johnson are co-chairs of the event; Johnson is a survivor and Zellweiger is a strong advocate for breast cancer research, said Mannix.

Feathers fly each year as art lovers duke it affectionately out over dazzling and unique bird digs – all with the aim of upping the fundraising ante. Last year, an unfinished piece by artist Tony Rosenthal was completed by his friend, artist Don Saco, after Rosenthal died. The work was a cube – a hallmark of Rosenthal's work – and inside, nestled a pink wood birdhouse. Last year's event was dedicated to his memory – and Rosenthal's work sparked a feathered flurry of bids.

A preview of this year's offerings will be held this Saturday from 5 to 7 PM at the Karyn Mannix Contemporary Gallery on Hampton Road; the preview is free. Online bidding can also be done at karynmannixcontemporary.com. Those unable to attend the event can email karynmannix@optonline.net to place a maximum absentee bid; volunteers will do the bidding in their stead.


  1. print email
    Great Event
    September 29, 2010 | 10:44 AM


    karyn mannix
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