Over coffee at Third Street Stuff, artist and activist Bob Morgan is talking about the upcoming series of fundraisers he has helped devise for the organization Moveable Feast. He has been involved with the organization for years, but Morgan is new to the board of the nonprofit, which came together in 1998 to deliver food and friendship to people with HIV/AIDS.
Before getting into the details of the events, he wants to mention a few numbers: only 6 percent of the group's budget goes to administrative costs; its volunteers deliver more than 100 meals a day; and recipients now include caregivers, clients' children and anyone referred by Hospice for any reason. Moveable Feast recently delivered its 400,000th meal. But city budget cuts, as well as public misconceptions about the disease, make the need for community support more crucial than ever, he says. So in the past year, he and other members of the board have begun "rethinking ways to have a fundraiser."
One thing Morgan knew for sure: he wanted to make them more fun.
"We wanted to give people a quality, memorable experience that they'll talk about for a long time," Morgan says. Results of their rethinking can be seen on four weekends this month as Moveable Feast hosts Sunday Salons in September at four notable Lexington homes.
The board enlisted the help of the local arts community, with the goal of giving people four unique experiences, says Morgan. The Sunday Salons will feature visual artists, musicians and writers; this weekend's has all three. The style of each event will be set by the homeowner.
"We wanted hosts that had architecturally significant homes or art collections, homes that people would say, 'I've always wanted to get inside and look at that place.'"
Because attendance is limited, people will receive "an up-close experience with the artists," Morgan says.
The series gets underway Sunday at the Thomas January house at 437 West Second Street. Owner John Wilkirson will host an afternoon tea at the rambling circa 1810 building. A onetime women's college and onetime private gay club, it has a resident ghost, many people believe, and the house itself haunts the memories of all who've lived in its apartments. Wilkirson has been renovating for years, but the mansion retains a quality that is part Miss Havisham's Satis House in Great Expectations, part Blanche duBois' Belle Reve — or how we imagine them, at least.
As guests arrive, they'll be entertained by fiddler Art Mize playing turn-of-the-last-century folk tunes. There'll be works displayed by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artist Laura Smith, and former Herald-Leader track writer Maryjean Wall will discuss her new book on Belle Brezing, Madam Belle: Sex, Money and Influence in a Southern Brothel, due out in October from the University Press of Kentucky. All that plus food and refreshments for $75.
"Somebody said $75 is a lot of money for a ticket. But do you realize what that money can do?" Morgan says. "It can feed a client for 3 weeks."
A $250 pass covers all 4 events, saving $50.
After the Thomas January House, the salons move to a house at 480 West Sixth Street, where guests will be treated to a barn dance and be entertained by rising star Ben Sollee on cello. New works by painter Patrick Smith will be shown. After that, the moveable feast of art and entertainment heads to the Craftsman-style home of historian and art collector David Burg on South Ashland, where Kentucky writer Frank X Walker will read from a new manuscript. The series concludes at the Sixth Street home of architectural glass artist Frank Close. Close's own art collection will be on display along with recent works by Lina Tharsing. Weather permitting, Tharsing's paintings will hang in the woods behind Close's home. Chris Sullivan, well known to local fans of The Swells and other groups, will provide the music.
Over the course of his life, Morgan has learned a thing or two about throwing a party. He studied diligently under Central Kentucky artist Henry Faulkner, practiced with horsewoman Anita Madden and hosted an untold number of receptions at the old Gallerie Soleil on Short Street.
Unfortunately, as a longtime member of the arts community, he also has gained plenty of first-hand knowledge of AIDS. For Morgan, serving on the board of Moveable Feast provides the perfect opportunity to put his creative event-planning skills to use for a cause to which he's deeply committed.
"People get asked to give so much," he says. "But some good causes are really desperate causes."
New drugs mean that people are living longer with AIDS, but "the cumulative effect is that there are still many desperate, needy people."
Moveable Feast's goal is that Sunday Salons in September will go a long way toward helping those people, while providing others the kind of lasting memories that Ernest Hemingway wrote of when he described Paris in the '20s as a "moveable feast."