The Small Art Studio That’s Raising Big Money for Charity Alex Panas December 10, 2021 It started in 2018 when a group of art enthusiasts packed into a small East Wheeling garage to bid on skateboard decks painted by local artists. By the end of the evening, a total of $3,000 was raised for the Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless. Now an annual event, Deck the Halls is an art show and auction held at Clientele Art Studio, located at 43 15th Street in East Wheeling. The event has only grown in popularity since its inception, and this year organizers are gearing up for another successful turnout. Deck the Halls will return this Saturday with even more vigor after hitting pause last year due to the pandemic. The event will be held from 8 p.m. to midnight and attendees will have the chance to bid on more than 20 skateboard decks artfully designed by talented local artists. Photos by Miranda Alley Photography. Photos by Miranda Alley Photography. Photos by Miranda Alley Photography. Photos by Miranda Alley Photography. Clientele owner Will Wallace shared this excitement with us ahead of this weekend’s event. “Deck the Halls is by far our most successful recurring event,” said Wallace. “It all began when artists Chad Fullerton, Tony Provenzano, and Steven Kline came to me with the idea to hold an art auction and I was all in. We were blown away by the initial response, so we’ve kept at it and are excited to be back again this year.” Deck the Halls: Explained If you haven’t attended a Deck the Halls event, then let’s break it down. You walk up to an unassuming brick building that opens up into a bright, industrial gallery that’s buzzing with energy and excitement. You grab a beer (or another drink of your choosing) and peruse dozens of skateboards that line the gallery walls. There’s truly something for everyone’s style. If you like nature and animal skulls, then you’d love a board by local illustrator Logan Schmitt. If you’re a movie buff, then you’ll enjoy Fairmont-based Autumn Mercer’s style. Automotive nut? Seeing one of Bridgeville, PA-based Nick Perricelia’s boards will have you sold. Once you’ve determined which board you want to claim, you have to wait for the bidding to begin. That’s when the event’s official emcee, Danny Padden, takes the stage – or more accurately, the upsidedown bucket – to kick off the auction. It’s loud, it’s chaotic, it’s magic. If you’re lucky enough to have the top bid, you’ll be the proud owner of a one-of-a-kind piece of art. And even more importantly, you’ll have earned bragging rights for scoring a coveted board from your favorite local artist. Danny Padden serves as the event's auctioneer (photo by Miranda Alley Photography). Sarah Clark shows off the board she took home from Deck the Halls in 2018 (photo by Miranda Alley Photography). Clientele Art Studio owner Will Wallace (photo by Miranda Alley Photography). Photos by Miranda Alley Photography. The Art of Giving Aside from having the chance to snag a unique piece of art, every single dollar from the auction is donated to the Greater Wheeling Homeless Coalition. Wallace explains that the coalition’s proximity to the gallery makes it even more meaningful. “While our mission is to be an art venue where all are welcome, it’s also important that we give back to our community,” said Wallace. “It’s no secret that there are too many of our neighbors who are struggling with homelessness, many of whom receive much-needed support services just a few blocks away from our gallery. This is our way of helping out during one of the roughest seasons for the unhomed.” Wallace explains how the money they raise through Deck the Halls helps the local Homeless Coalition have access to funding that fills the gaps in the services they offer. “After talking with the Coalition, we realized that most of their funding is through grants, which is phenomenal, but it often dictates exactly how they spend their money. Direct giving, like what we do with Deck the Halls, gives their organization access to unrestricted funds that they can use at their discretion for programs and services that aren’t always funded through grants – like getting someone a driver’s license or a new pair of socks.” This sentiment is echoed by the coalition’s executive director, Lisa Badia. “Coordinating annual fundraising events like Deck the Halls can be difficult for an organization with a small team of staff like the coalition,” said Badia. “So we have been fortunate for this event. In 2019, Deck the Halls 2 delivered a sold-out show with 35 skateboard decks, raising over $6,000 for the coalition. Community-driven and supported events like Deck the Halls offer us the ability to serve participants with services or assistance to permanently resolve their homelessness that falls outside of grant-funded programs.” What sets this event apart from other fundraisers is the unstuffy, DIY nature of the whole operation. There’s no expectation of making a big donation, no suits and ties and certainly no bland banquet food – just a laid-back, fun evening with people who want to buy cool art while supporting a great cause. So, if you want to help support an amazing local charity while having fun, then head to Clientele Art Studio this Saturday at 8 p.m. If you can’t make it to Deck the Halls on Saturday, then you can stop in on Sunday for a special yoga brunch at 10:30 a.m. Yoga instructor Betsy Sweeny will lead an hour-long all-level yoga class that includes coffee and fresh-pressed juice prepared by Melissa Rebholz of Midge’s Kitchen. After the class, Melissa will have a brunch spread of biscuits and gravy (vegan and non-vegan options) and fresh bagels from noon – 2 p.m. Learn more about this special offering and purchase tickets at midgeskitchen.com. Clientele is open every Friday from 5 – 10 p.m., Saturday from noon – 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon – 6 p.m. In addition to serving as an art gallery, Clientele often hosts live music performances and other small events, has a small retail section featuring products made by local artists, and serves beer, seltzer and non-alcoholic beverages. • Alex Panas is the Program Manager for Wheeling Heritage, where she works with artists, small business owners, and community stakeholders to provide technical assistance and create meaningful programs that enhance Wheeling. She also serves as the managing editor for Weelunk. Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her husband where they raise four cats and four spunky backyard chickens. 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