By Naomi Vanderlip
Examiner staff writer
Self-taught artist Ramsey Dunlap knew he had something to contribute. Inspired by the housing crisis and his own past, he poured his feelings into an art piece for the Coalition on Homelessness’ September auction.
The shelter client advocate and former Coalition on Homelessness volunteer created a canvas featuring a brown fist with three black fingers. A butterfly emerging from behind embodies the Coalition. The lettering stretched across the canvas reads “America, Tear Down ‘Your’ Wall … Build Some Homes,” a riff on President Reagan’s demand of Gorbachev to dismantle the Berlin Wall.
“I thought maybe it’s time for America to tear down this wall, literally and metaphorically, and focus on building homes, giving people foundation, instead of discrimination, racism and sexism,” Dunlap said.
Art, advocacy and fundraising will be on display at the Coalition’s 21st annual event, running Sept. 9-23 online and featuring over 200 original works. On auction will be a comical sculpture of Bernie Sanders sitting cross-legged at the 2021 inauguration, ephemeral nature scapes, harsh visual commentaries on politics and culture and everything in between. The event also features raffle prizes — including a 20-person wine tasting from Total Wine & More, a Nintendo Switch and tickets to Six Flags and the Oakland Zoo — as well as gift certificates to Bay Area restaurants and shops.
The silent auction will be viewable on the Coalition’s site for two weeks and a live auction will be held over Zoom Sept. 9 starting at 7:30 pm with guest auctioneer Honey Mahogany. Artists, mainly from the Bay Area, have donated works spanning mediums and price points — with all the proceeds going to the Coalition.
The Coalition on Homelessness focuses on policy advocacy to change structural issues within the homeless response system, such as funding allocations in The City’s budget, improving COVID-19 response and the nonprofit’s most recent endeavor — an alternative response team to answer complaints about unhoused people and to connect unhoused people to resources.
More than two decades ago, when the Coalition launched its first auction, staff hoped that art, and especially political art, would raise attention and funds for its cause, said Development Director Olivia Glowacki. The auction team has long made accessibility a priority, auctioning higher priced art by well known artists as well as posters from loyal partner Poster Syndicate.
Originally planned as an in-person event, this year’s auction will be all virtual, due to public health concerns related to the delta variant.
“The right decision was putting it online for the safety of the community,” said Glowacki.
Last year’s auction was also held virtually, and raised almost $60,000 for the Coalition.
Inas Al-soqi, who is serving as the art auction coordinator this year, said artists local and nationwide have flocked to be included. “It was an immediate willingness to donate,” Al-soqi said, who noted questions from artists were: “When can I bring it? What kind of piece do you need?”
Al-soqi said the increasing visibility of the homelessness crisis has motivated contributions to the auction, as well the Coalition’s reputation for direct support.
Several artists donating their work have ties to the Coalition — but few as close as Dunlap’s.
After a domestic violence dispute with a former partner, Dunlap moved from New York to San Francisco, where instead of starting fresh in a new city he became homeless.
During that time, Dunlap said he walked into the Coalition’s office and immediately felt a connection with the nonprofit’s staff and its values. He began to volunteer — manning the front desk, writing for the coalition’s publication The Street Sheet and distributing information.
“I went through the system, and when I finally got housing, I knew how it was, so I wanted to contribute and give back,” said Dunlap of his aim to raise money for the Coalition on Homelessness. “It can happen to anyone. You just never know the circumstances.”
IF YOU WANT TO GO:
Where: Via Zoom: https://one.bidpal.net/cohartauction21/welcome
When: Silent Action: 9/9 at 5:30 p.m. to 9/23 at 12 p.m., Live Auction: 9/9 at 7:30 p.m.