Friday, January 27, 2012

Technology with a heart

Art collectors and those passionate about United Family Services' mission of helping victims of domestic violence have made the nonprofit's signature fundraiser, the annual Art With Heart Auction, a must-attend event.

If you want to support the cause and mingle with Charlotte's best amid a truly amazing offering of art, it's Feb. 4 at Founders Hall, 100 N. Tryon St. in the Bank of America headquarters. The featured artists - all represented by Allison Sprock Fine Art - are Anne Neilson, Felice Sharp, Gee Gee Collins, Kathy Wochele, Louis St. Lewis, Margaret Dyer, Roman Chatov and Tracy Sharp.

Tickets are $100 per person; Patron level tickets are $200 per person. Tickets can be ordered online at; by calling 704-367-2799; or at the door.

New this year is a technological twist that event chairs Hillary Lacouture and Katherine Daly are hoping will make the evening even more successful: a new gadget called BidPal.

When guests enter, they'll receive a BidPal, an electronic device that resembles an iPod-Touch. It will have all the photos of art loaded onto it, plus information about the artist, and will literally do your bidding for you after you enter some information including the maximum amount you're willing to pay for the work of art you want. The gadget came highly recommended by organizers of a fundraiser at the N.C. Museum of Art who used it recently and saw a significant increase in bidding.

Here's how it works: During the silent auction, instead of having to write your name on a piece of paper underneath the work you have your eye on - and keep coming back to make sure no one has outbid you - you can do it on the BidPal from anywhere at the party and receive updates on the status of the items you bid on. It's really a genius idea. I know there have been times when I have bid on a silent auction item the old-fashioned way, then I got lost in a conversation and lost out on the item I wanted. This way, BidPal will update you on the status of the art up for grabs, plus it will be a fun icebreaker with other guests.

Here's a picture from another gala courtesy of so you can get a general idea of what it looks like:

The live auction will be held in the traditional manner because there's no way a gadget can replace the excitement and immediacy of that portion of the evening. But for the silent auction it's perfect - especially since it means no long check-out lines at the end of the evening.

According to research, BidPal can increase bids by 20 to 80 percent. Every dollar is crucial to United Family Services right now as it builds a larger shelter to house victims of domestic violence in our community and their children while expanding the services offered them so they can rebuild their lives. Ground has broken on the project, and $8.3 million of the $10 million needed has been raised, so funds from this year's Art with Heart are especially crucial.

Domestic violence affects every strata of society - from those in million dollar homes to families struggling financially - and people forget that men can be victims, too, although most are women. Previously, victims could only be given refuge at United Family Services' shelter for 30 days before they had to move because of space reasons. With the new enlarged shelter and expanded programs, they'll be able to stay for a year and their children will receive even more help in hopes of breaking the cycle of domestic violence.

Whether you love art, you love the cause or you just love a great party - supporting the event by attending will truly make a difference.