‘Help Austin Now’ artist group holds virtual charity auction to fund nonprofits

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin is up for auction. Well, at least its art is, and it’s all for a good cause.

A group of creative artists known as Help Austin Now came together to fund local nonprofits and help out the Austin community during the COVID-19 crisis.

(Courtesy: Help Austin Now)

Artists Frank Zhu and Lindsey Lee co-founded the group around March 15, when Austin went into lockdown. Zhu sees the outbreak as a “marathon” and “felt compelled to do something.” But he didn’t know how to start a virtual auction, so Lee lent her hand. For her, it all started with a ceramic pink jar Frank made.

“He posted [the jar] and said, ‘Hey guys, I really want to do an auction and I want to figure out how I can support people in Austin,” Lee said.'”

“And I reached out and said, ‘Wow, I love this idea. Maybe we can make it a little bit bigger. Maybe we could tap our networks and see who else is interested in putting up art to benefit the community.'”

They finished the website in a day, and it went live shortly after. From there, they asked local artists to donate their work to their virtual charity auction. It’s 100% online. Their Instagram is the auction hall and each post features what is up for auction (past and present). The group is accepting auction donations through May 8.

“We are just really happy that our community was like, ‘let’s do this!’ And we go so many donations. I think we’re gonna come in around 100 donations, and we’re about to hit our goal of $10,000, probably today or tomorrow,” Lee said.

That money goes to local nonprofits, Gofundme pages, and individuals. Some auctions produced up to $400 each for charities like Meals on Wheels, Casa Marianella and SAFE Austin.

Each co-founder hopes the auction trickles inspiration for others to pick up where they we leave off.

Zhu said “we’re making charity appealing” and hopes it inspires others. Lee agrees and sees it as “very accessible to people that haven’t traditionally felt welcome in philanthropy. And we think that philanthropy can be a club that not everyone feels welcome in. We want everyone to know that, you can do your part to make your community a better place.”

The help does not stop there. Their website acts as a one stop shop for artists to engage with the community for needs. Whether you’re struggling with food insecurity, housing issues, loss of business or simply need assistance with difficulties due to the pandemic, there may just be a link for you.

“We wanted to offer as many resources, as many ways people can see, people can know what’s going on,” Zhu said. “We have links to all of the nonprofits in town where all of the donations go to,” for example.

How does it work?

Help Austin Now shared a breakdown of how their virtual charity auction process works:

  • Austin locals donate their services, art, and other items to be auctioned off with all proceeds going to an organization or fund of the buyer’s choice (within our pre-vetted options).
  • Buyers purchase auction items here, and make bids by commenting on the item.
  • When the auction ends, Help Austin Now notifies buyers, and they can select the organization or fund to donate the final bid amount.
  • Once the donor receives verification that the donation has been made, the donor ships the item directly to the buyer.
  • Help Austin Now encourages buyers to use the hashtag #helpaustinnow after receiving their item and share their excitement with friends.

Some of the participating businesses include:

Some of the artists who participated include:

  • Angélica Rahe
  • Cydney Cossette
  • Kerry Joyce
  • Natalie Keuss
  • Nom Ceramics
  • Not All Geminis
  • Parker Thornton
  • Suki Wattik
  • Tom Bandage

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