The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

Art from the Heart’s 40th Anniversary Benefit Auction

Since 1984, Bay Area artists have been donating valentines to benefit Sonoma State’s art gallery
Guests+at+the+Art+from+the+Heart+benefit+auction+in+the+University+Art+Gallery
Aisha Mendonca
Guests at the Art from the Heart benefit auction in the University Art Gallery

Since February of 1984, Sonoma State University’s Art Gallery has hosted its annual benefit auction, “Art from the Heart,” to support the gallery’s programs.

Today, the auction features a diverse collection of artwork dating from 1978 to 2024, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, photographs, mixed media, and more. “All the works in the exhibition are donations,” Sonoma State’s Interim Gallery Director, Claudia Molloy said, “so we reached out to artists at the end of last year to invite them to participate.”

This year marks the fundraiser’s 40th anniversary and it has had an impact on the community since its beginning.

When Bob Nugent, founder of Art from the Heart first arrived at Sonoma State as the New Art Gallery Director, his annual budget was $2500. “I told them that would not even pay to print and mail announcements for the shows,” Nugent said. “I was told, then you better start raising money.”

The following year, Nugent decided to have a fundraiser on Valentine’s Day inspired by one he participated in years prior that stopped running. Thus, the plans for Art from the Heart were set in motion.

While the event then, like today, was dependent on the donations of artists, Bob Nugent took a different approach to gathering art for the auction. “As an artist, I am constantly being asked to donate artwork for fundraisers and was apprehensive about it,” he said. Instead, Nugent asked artists to send valentines the size of a postcard. He was overwhelmed with responses, with well-known artists from the Bay Area and across the country contributing to the cause, and around $11,000 being raised in total.

The following year, the event only grew in popularity. Audience attendance more than doubled, including collectors from the Bay Area. More artists began participating, including notables Squeak Carnwath, Roy De Forest, Judy Pfaff, Joan Snyder, Hung Liu, Sam Francis, and Sam Gillian. That year, over $27,000 was donated to support the University Art Gallery. “The pieces the artists sent grew in size, as did the revenue. The rest is history,” Nugent said.

Today, many of these artists continue to participate in the auction, accompanying several local and national professional artists, alumni, and, as of this and last year, students. With the combined efforts of the artists, Interim Gallery Director, Gallery Interns, and Student Assistants, the auction brought in over 400 guests, whose support will help fund the gallery’s established program as well as promote and create new exhibitions and workshops.

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