Getting Exposure

Sedona Arts Center’s executive director Karen Ely has a sharp eye for good fund-raising ideas. She’s organized countless art sales, special events and even the annual Sedona art and sculpture walk. Her most recent inspiration came after a trip to the local theater to see Calendar Girls, a movie about a group of women who posed nude for a calendar in order to raise money for a local cancer ward.

Ely began casually mentioning the idea of a nude calendar to friends and colleagues in her Sedona office the following week, and word quickly spread across the small Arizona town. Before plans were even solidified, the project began to take on a life of its own. “The responses to the idea were huge,” Ely explains. “People were already telling me they wanted to be in the calendar, or that they wanted to be considered as the photographer for it.”

After careful consideration, a group of men and women were chosen from the city of Sedona to represent the 12 months. A husband and wife even offered to share the month of June. The basis for selection was simple: All volunteers had to be serious patrons of the arts and willing to promote the calendar once it was completed. “I wanted people who were well-known in different art groups or active in different parts of town,” Ely says. “That way, they’d really help market the calendar.”

As it turns out, marketing the calendar hasn’t been much of a problem. The project has generated quite a buzz from both local and national media, and orders for calendars began piling up months in advance. Ely is excited about the attention because it could mean more funding for all the art programs involved in the project. “All the other nonprofit art organizations in the calendar will get a percentage of the profits from the calendars that they help sell,” says Ely. “So it really helps the arts overall in the community.” This is an important benefit to Sedona, a community that thrives on the support of its many galleries, art centers and museums.

For fine artists like Joella Jean Mahoney, having a home in a heavily art-influenced town like Sedona is incredibly important to her life and livelihood. So when Ely asked Mahoney to pose for the calendar, she was quick to say yes. “I’m happy to support the Sedona Arts Center because it’s the cultural anchor of Sedona,” she explains. “It’s the one arts organization that has lasted through the years because of strong community support.” To the 71-year old Sedona resident, the shoot was just a natural extension of her work on canvas. “I’m not uncomfortable with nudity because I draw from the nude model all the time. It’s just no big deal,” she laughs.

The other models for the calendar handled the fund-raiser with Mahoney’s same sense of fun. “You’d be hard-pressed to go to any kind of get-together in town where everyone’s not talking about it,” Ely says. “People are now introducing themselves as ‘Mr. March’, ‘Ms. October’ and ‘Mr. and Mrs. June.’”

Talk about the calendar has been so positive that artists are already asking about next year’s. “I really didn’t think it would last more than a year, but we already have people lined up to be in it next year,” says Ely. “It just looked like a fun way to sell art and create it.” Interested buyers can preorder the calendar on the Sedona Arts Center Web site (www. sedonaartscenter.com) or by calling 928/282-3809. The 2005 calendar officially becomes available to the public on September 16.

Betsy Dillard Stroud is an artist, freelance writer and workshop instructor living in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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