Friendship Center hosts virtual Festival of Hearts
Flying phoenixes, floating butterflies and hot air balloons.
What do they all have in common?
They’re all artistic depictions of this year’s Festival of Hearts theme: “Love is in the air.”
The 22nd annual Festival of Hearts began virtually Jan. 25 and is featuring an online auction of nearly 55 pieces of heart art for the benefit of the Friendship Center’s HEART (Help Elders at Risk Today) program. The Friendship Center is located in Montecito and Goleta and offers daytime services and support for aging adults with specialized needs.
During a typical year, the center would hold a themed luncheon where local residents could dress up and bid on heart art in person. But due to COVID-19, the event is being held as a virtual auction through Saturday. According to Sophia Davis, the center’s advancement and project manager, hosting the event online took some innovation.
“Trying to recreate the (luncheon) with a virtual event was a little tricky, but we’re doing it.” Ms. David told the News-Press.
This year’s theme for heart art was less specific than in years past, Sharon Murrow, the festival’s artist coordinator and “heart wrangler,” told the News-Press. Previous themes such as the “Wizard of Oz” or “California Dreaming” led artists in a specific direction, but this year’s theme allowed room for experimentation.
“It allowed (artists) to be a little more flexible in their creativity,” Ms. Morrow said.
The heart art pieces feature a broad range of creative expression from dozens of local artists and celebrities. Starting with a simple paper mache base, artists are given creative liberty to let their imaginations soar.
One piece titled “Whoo Loves You” by local artist Cheryl Guthrie depicts a detailed, sculptured owl with its face in the shape of a heart.
Another piece by well-known artist Rob Latham displays a sculpture of a red neon heart attached to a metal star, a creation Ms. Morrow said is “absolutely beautiful.”
Montecito resident and Oscar-winning star Jeff Bridges is a regular contributor to the festival, and his heart creation this year features a drawing of two men talking face to face.
Mr. Bridges’ drawings are a beloved feature of the festival, and Ms. Murrow said every year, the actor is the first one to return his heart art.
In another art piece by former Friendship Center staff member Judy Hughes, a mobile of colorful butterflies circle a small heart hanging in the center.
With such a variety of unique pieces for this year’s theme, Ms. Morrow said she can’t “pick out one piece that is more striking than the next.”
In addition to heart art, the Friendship Center is also auctioning off experience packages, including a paddleboard date, a wine and paint party, and a private seafood dinner party, among others. The center is also offering a variety of Valentines’ Day packages for purchase.
The Festival of Hearts would typically garner tens of thousands of dollars for the Friendship Center’s HEART program, but without an in-person event, bidding amounts on heart art have been lower this year than in years past.
Heart art contributions are even down this year with 55 hearts on display this year as opposed to an average of 70 to 80 hearts in the past, Ms. Murrow said.
“The pandemic has really affected artists this year.”