Alzheimer’s Association Chicago Rita Hayworth Gala

By Dana Getz

The 26th annual Alzheimer’s Association Chicago Rita Hayworth Gala recognized the newer, younger face of early onset Alzheimer’s last Saturday, raising over $1.5 million for medical research and care giving programs.

A record-breaking 900+ guests gathered at the Hilton Chicago for the event, enjoying cocktails, dinner, dancing, auctions and a special live performance by Grammy award-winning artist Richard Marx.

Led by an entire family for the first time ever, co-chairs Debbie Mendelson Ponn, Sharon and Scott Markman and Blythe and David Mendelson followed in their parents’ footsteps, who co-chaired the event in 1997.

“Like so many others, our family has been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, and we are honored by those who choose to stand with us and join our passion for the cause,” David Mendelson said. “We are determined to recruit new advocates and educate generations about this devastating disease. Together, we fight as a family and an Association to live in a world without Alzheimer’s.”

Mendelson Ponn said that originally her brother David and his wife were approached to co-chair the gala, but after talking it over they agreed they wanted to organize the event as a family.

“It’s a great party that’s bringing awareness to those who may not know about the disease and it’s raising vital funds for the Alzheimer’s Association,” Mendelson Ponn said. “We’re dancing for a good cause tonight.”

The siblings, however, decided to take a different approach than their parents did 15 years ago, focusing on exposing the increasingly younger face of Alzheimer’s. An estimated 200,000 under the age of 65 are now living with the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Alzheimer’s is growing at a faster pace than anyone could have imagined,” David Mendelson said. “This is not your grandparents’ face…the face of Alzheimer’s today is the face of your entire family.”

With the help of Scott Markman’s team at The Monogram Group, Inc.—whose $20,000 creative transformation was completedfree of charge—the siblings aimed for an energetic and youthful theme for the gala.

“We wanted it to be tied to Rita but in a very different way,” Scott Markman said. “We had to find a way to evolve her person but not make it about her as much, and make it about the cause and a very good evening.”

The result was “Step On Board,” a call to action for both the committee and the rest of the room. Scott Markman said while the event was originally about family and tradition, this year’s gala invited guests to “step on board with an old, elegant, retro-hip kind of thing,” featuring images of train travel and the glory days.

For Scott Markman, who has attended the event for the past 20 years, the gala has become a part of his life, though co-chairing the event for the first time brought special meaning to his presence.

“To be one of the guys to work so hard on this and to stand up on that podium looking out at the crowd was so frickin’ cool. It was just awesome,” Scott Markman said.

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, daughter of Rita Hayworth, commended the committee’s hard work, as well as the contributions of honorees including Civic Award acceptors the Moscow Family, Alzheimer’s Association Corporate Award receivers the Guggenheim Partners and Alzheimer’s Association Medical and Scientific award recipient John C. Morris, MD.

Gabby Wild: Meshing Fashion & Conservationism

By Gemma Follari

When Gabby Wild was 20 years old, she traveled to Thailand where she met a baby elephant “who fell madly in love with me.” The elephant, who had been stolen from his mother in the jungle, wouldn’t take milk from anyone and was expected to die until Wild arrived and got him to drink from a bottle.

After Wild left Thailand to continue her undergraduate studies at Cornell University, the baby elephant passed away. “He stopped eating, became very depressed, broke one leg, broke the other, and then died. It was horrific. Absolutely horrific.”

Wild said after this experience and seeing “how horrible the plight for wildlife is today,” she decided to start The Gabby Wild Foundation, which she founded in October of 2011 with a mission to “to raise awareness and funds for various threatened animals,” said Wild.

“One fourth of mammals, half of amphibians and an eight of all bird species are at risk of extinction and that’s a very scary fact.”

Gabby with baby Asian elephant, Khun Chai.

Today Wild, now 23, is the president and face of The Gabby Wild Foundation. As well as a student pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine at Cornell Veterinary College.

The foundation brings together conservation groups that have similar goals. “We’re uniting them all together, so that way we’re stronger in numbers,” said Wild.

Currently, Wild is working with several different amphibian groups on a campaign called Metamorphosis, which is not yet online. National Geographic photographer Robin Moore, who is also a project manager for Conservation International, took photos of Wild transformed through makeup into a variety of amphibians and posing with live amphibians.

“It was an honor being transformed into creatures so physically & intrinsically beautiful & precious,” said Wild about the process.

The makeup and prosthetics were done by Academy Award winner Brian Sipe who has done makeup for movies including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Star Trek, and Emmy Award-winning makeup artist Jennifer Aspinall.

“Together they changed me, metamorphosized me, into a bunch of amphibians to raise awareness for them and also to raise funds which we’re doing at the moment and it’s going very nicely,” said Wild.

Vietnamese Mossy Frog Metamorphosis. Photo by Robin Moore. Makeup by Brian Sipe & Jennifer Aspinall.

Since its inception in 2011, The Gabby Wild Foundation has done a lot of photography campaign work. The foundation’s work has been featured at New York Fashion Week, Art Basel in Miami, and in major publications including the New York Times and the Huffington Post.

The foundation has done multiple campaigns and Wild is now focused on expanding the interactive part of her foundation.

The “Create Your Own Campaign” section of the website, which will not be on the website for a few months, will allow people and companies to design their own wildlife conservation campaigns. The Gabby Wild Foundation will guide them and help promote the campaigns. Wild’s foundation will also provide materials to help companies promote their campaigns on their own networks. Each campaign will set a monetary goal but “there’s no pressure to reach that goal, as whatever is made still gets donated to their animal of choice,” said Wild.

This new component “allows the public to see what any person can do to protect animals,” said Wild who added she is very excited to launch “Create Your Own Campaign.”

Wild said the most rewarding part of the work she has done has been people’s responses.

“I think the most impact has been when people send messages or emails about what they have learned and how that influenced their daily lives.”

People from places as far away as Japan and Taiwan send in small donations with messages telling Wild about what they’ve learned.

“I think that’s the most beautiful part, when someone say ‘I never even knew what the Chinese Giant Salamander’ and you hear them go ‘I’m going to try to help you save it.’”

For more on Gabby and this year’s Campaign, visit GabbyWilde.com.

Chinese Giant Salamander Dress by Luis Valenzuela. Photo by Ken Kawamoto

Chinese Giant Salamander Dress by Luis Valenzuela. Photo by Ken Kawamoto

Chicago’s First Martha Stewart Wedding Party

By Gemma Follari

For the first time ever, Chicago brides-to-be were able to experience Martha Stewart’s Wedding Party, an event that has been held annually in New York City for over a decade.

About 365 soon-to-be brides, grooms, friends of engaged couples and wedding planners enjoyed cocktails, live music and a showcase by top Chicago wedding vendors in a ballroom at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel on Sunday, March 10.

The event was brought to Chicago for the first time because “Chicago is a great market for weddings. There are lots of brides, lots of talented vendors. We don’t have an event quite like this.” Said Meghan Andalman, owner of Lovebird Wedding & Event Styling. She added, “Martha Stewart Weddings has a lot of very loyal fans in Chicago, so it just seemed like a very good fit.”

Andalman co-produced the showcase with Claudia Hanlin of The Wedding Library, a wedding planning company, who has been producing the event for Martha Stewart Weddings in New York for several years.

“I think the event was a huge success. You know we had terrific vendors, we had great brides, everybody seemed to be mingling and interacting and gathering information. The energy in the room was fantastic so I’m really happy with the final product,” said Andalman who hopes to make this an annual event in the Windy City.

The event had over 100 vendors from all parts of the wedding industry. Each business set up elaborately decorated tables to display their services. The array of vendors covered every aspect of a bride’s special day, from photography and food to honeymoon destinations. “We have so much talent here [in Chicago], so we invited some of our favorite vendors and it just sort of grew from there,” said Andalman.

The Radisson Blu where the event was held is a relatively new hotel in Chicago.

“The minute that I heard that Martha Stewart Weddings wanted to do their first bridal show in Chicago, since we’re a new hotel, we opened November of 2011, I knew this had to be the place,” said Noemi Lopez, catering sales manager at the Radisson.

For vendors and guests alike, the Martha Stewart name drew attention to the event and was a big reason why many decided to attend.

“We love the Radisson Blu and Martha Stewart,” said Carli Milstein of HMR Designs when asked why the company chose to be in the showcase. HMR Designs does custom design work for special events including weddings.

HMR Designs, like many of the other vendors, set up an elaborately decorated table in the ballroom to display their services. “We did this tablescape just to give brides an idea of how they can have a luxury beautiful event,” said Milstein. “Everything is catered towards the bride and what it takes to make her special day.”

Tina Anderson, owner of Gem Events, an event planning company, attended the event not as a vendor, but as a guest.

“We love Martha, we follow everything she’s doing, we actually know quite a few vendors here, and wanted to see firsthand what they’re doing next, and it’s just a fun way to spend a Sunday,” said Anderson, listing why she decided to purchase a ticket, the prices of which started at $65 per person.

Alicia Blumer, senior sales manager BBJ Linen, was another vendor at the event. BBJ Linen is a table fashions company that specializes in table accessories including linens, overlays and napkin rings.

Blumer said her favorite part of the event was the way it was set up.  “It’s a little bit more like a lingering atmosphere instead of your traditional bridal show.”

Guests could be seen mingling, eating and admiring the different displays through the five-hour party.

Besides the vendors, food, drinks and music set up in the ballroom, upstairs in the hotel’s junior ballroom there was a lecture series on weddings that included a slideshow of different events and suggestions for how to make a wedding special, followed by a question and answer session with a panel of wedding industry experts.

Katie Jackson-Meara’s Rise to the Top of The Event & Bridal Industries

By Vanessa Bisetti

What does it take to be labeled one of Refinery 29’s Hottest 30 Under 30 in one of the biggest cities in the country?  Ask Katie Jackson-Meara, who made this prestigious list this past year in Chicago for her entrepreneurialism and success within the event and bridal industries.  Katie, who is a planner, stylist and founder of So Dressed Up, hit the ground running after graduating college.  Her career began working for Jam Entertainment where she had the opportunity to take on huge projects, such as an over-the-top gala at the Chicago Theater with celeb Stevie Wonder.  “It was a lot of work and I was really young, but they trust you implicitly right away,” describes Katie of her time there, “…I was really, really lucky to have had that job.”  After her work with Jam Entertainment, Katie took a job with Modern Luxury Media, where she contributed to events involving a variety of demographics.  “I could be working on an interior designer showroom event one day, then a cocktail party at a new residential building the next day,” explained Katie of her experience.  Only in her twenties Katie was working with the city’s best chefs, restaurants, stores and designers.

Photo 2 Credit Fig Media

However, that was just the beginning for the ambitious Chicago native.  In 2009, an underpaid Katie began a company called So Dressed Up that served as a side business to make extra money while being employed fulltime.  Her inspiration stemmed from her careers with Jam Entertainment and Modern Luxury Media where she realized her true love for planning events and eye for detail.  For So Dressed Up, Katie began freelancing for Macy’s, taking on whatever projects she could.  Macy’s events were centered on fashion, which she found intriguing.  “That kind of sparked the idea of focusing more on events where people really have an appreciation for style.”  Katie’s concentration on style landed her noteworthy opportunities.  Her first real experience with styling professionally came when she helped style a photo shoot for the 10th anniversary of Oprah Magazine.  In the midst of the grind between side work and being fully employed, Katie came to a realization that it was time to take a risk and dedicate all of her attention to So Dressed Up.  “While it was great,” referring to her fulltime job at the time, “I just felt like it was a good time to make the leap.”  With that, she went from the stability of a two-week paycheck to facing the challenges of being small business owner.

That leap landed her on the fast track to being an extremely prominent entrepreneur.  Her now fulltime career started out with a bang as the So Dressed Up launch party was held at none other than Kate Spade.  “To have something at that caliber for my kickoff party was really exciting!”  From that grand entrance until now, So Dressed Up has exceled as one of Chicago’s top wedding and event planning businesses.  In recent work, Katie was honored to be the planner for the first birthday party of wedding dress retailer BHLDN.  BHLDN only has two locations in the United States, so she was flattered to have had the chance to work with the team from the Chicago store.

Photo 2 Credit Dean Thorsen Photography

Weddings are part of her everyday work, so it was only natural for Katie to take on the task of planning her own wedding when that time came over a year ago.  Katie had a strong sense of style and knew exactly what she wanted for her big day.  With her knowledge of all the vendors as well as her personal connections, she didn’t feel the need to pass the work onto someone else.  “I think by nature, I had high expectations on myself and I think I felt like other people might have had those expectations of me because it was also my job…but it was a lot of fun and went so fast!”  Her beautiful and well thought out wedding was topped with an amazing dress by Priscilla of Boston; the dress fell low in the back and had a classy front held up by elegant straps.  Katie laughed when describing the long process to find her perfect dress, but that special moment occurred, “The moment that they say you have when you put it on, it did finally happen!”

Discussing all the glamour of Katie’s wedding brought about the recent glamorous nights in Hollywood.  In light of award season, I was curious as to which award show she would most want to contribute to the planning of.   “The Grammy’s!” exclaimed Katie, “I love, love, love music.  And it’s such a fun show, from the fashion to the performances!”  As for celebrities, she would love to throw a “fab fete” for First Lady Michelle Obama who has been a part of award season herself, presenting Best Picture at the Academy Awards this past Sunday.  “She is so classic and graceful…and I always have extra love for ladies from my hometown!”  Though Katie worked on styling for Oprah Magazine years ago, she would love to plan a party for Oprah who to her is an inspiration.

Photo Credit Fig Media

The sincere love Katie has for her hometown is evident.  When asked if she has considered relocating, she explained that it was not in the cards at this time mainly because she loves Chicago.  “I love so many things about this city!  Strolling Michigan Avenue, walks along the lake…I love just taking in the energy of the city.”  For those who have not had the chance to try out Le Colonial, she personally recommends it as one of her favorite restaurants for dinner.  She continued her list of her fave Chicago spots with Glazed and Infused donuts for those lazy Sunday mornings and the Signature Lounge located on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building, a great place to enjoy a cocktail.

Katie’s passion and enthusiasm for what she does have led to her success.  It looks like this Chicago-grown lady will be running the city for a while!  To check out all of Katie’s services, customer reviews and more, visit her website: Sodressedup.com.

The Spirits of Southern Delaware

By  Terri Marshall

Southern Delaware is a popular beach destination in the summer, but spend a little time exploring off the beach and you will discover the true spirit – and spirits – that call Delaware home.

Nassau Valley Vineyards located just a few miles from the beach in Lewes, Delaware  produces award winning wines from estate grown grapes along with other high quality fruit sourced from local and regional growers.  The winery offers tours and tastings. An onsite museum chronicles the 8,000 year-old history of wine, but it is the spirit behind this vineyards that begs exploration.

When Peggy Raley decided to begin producing wines Delaware’s law prohibited the production and resale of alcohol.  Peggy drafted legislation and lobbied the Delaware General Assembly to create the Farm Winery legislation for the state.  The law passed in 1991 and Nassau Valley Vineyards opened in 1993 as the First Winery in the First State.

“In going through changing the laws, it was always our intention to see an industry grow,” says Peggy.  “If we wanted it to just stay us, we probably could have made that happen, but it was about trying to create things for the future.”

Peggy’s efforts paved the way for all other Delaware wineries and breweries.  “It was two and a half years of me laying that groundwork that set the formula, but what we did opened the door for everybody.  It’s gratifying to see that all of those efforts opened the doors for a lot of good people to come forward,” she says.    For more information go to Nassauvalley.com


Peggy paved the way for future spirited entrepreneurs like the founders of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware.  Dogfish Head started out as the smallest commercial brewery in America brewing its first ale on three little kegs with propane burners underneath.  Today it is one of Delaware’s most popular brews and can be found nationwide. The creative brews developed by creative people with a very creative tree house on property for meetings is best understood by a tour of the brewery followed by samples of the brews – of course!

“Dogfish is an amazing place to work,” says Mark Carter – whose business card labels him Event Czar/Donation Dude/Sustainability Guy.  “The bottom line is we get to make creative beers with a bunch of off-centered co-workers, and in the tour world we get to share this experience with visitors from all over the country.”

Dogfish Head Brewery maintains a focus on sustainability.  For example, the grains used in the brewing cycle are recycled and delivered to local farmers to be used as feed for cattle – making for some very happy cows in Southern Delaware.

Those off-centered employees are pretty happy too.  “It’s not bad getting a payday case of beer with our paychecks,” says Mark.  Check out their craft brewed ales at Dogfish.com.


A bit further south on Fenwick Island, Dale Clifton, Jr. offers up some spirits of the sea at the Discover Sea Shipwreck Museum.  A more than avid diver, Dale has spent the majority of his last 30 years underwater exploring shipwrecks – many of them off the coast of Delaware.   “Each time a ship sinks, time stand still,” says Dale.

Dale’s exploration of these underwater time capsules has yielded a mind-blowing collection of treasures.   The continuously evolving exhibits on display at Discover Sea represent only 10% of his collection with the remaining 90% on loan to museums around the world.

During my visit I held gold bricks stamped by the King of Spain and viewed photographs perfectly developed from a camera which sank aboard the RMS Republic – the pride of the White Star Line prior to Titanic.

Dale’s collection also includes 30 bottles of rum discovered in the wreckage of a fleet of Spanish ships which sank in 1733.  When the bottles were discovered in the 1990’s, 18 of them were still sealed and drinkable.  Testing proved these were not ordinary bottles of rum.  It seems the Spanish aboard the now waterlogged fleet had overtaken a British Navy Ship prior to sinking –  pillaging everything including the rum.  When the rum was bottled in 1730,  the distillery lined the bottom of the bottles with coconut fiber, added 145-proof rum up to the base of the neck and filled the remaining space with water and two tablespoons of lime juice to prevent scurvy – hence the expression “he’s a limey”.

Dale offered me a shot of the rum.  And with the burn that only aged 145-proof rum can provide, I drank down 300 plus years of history! Immerse yourself at Discoversea.com.


Lights. Camera. Cure: Hollywood’s Star-Studded Dance-A-Thon

By Ria Sardana

Hollywood may be known for its overindulgence and luxurious parties, but the city is no stranger to amazing charities. On Sunday, January 27, Lights Camera Cure, hosted by actors Devon Werkheiser and Gia Mantegna, held its second annual Dance-A-Thon at the Avalon in Hollywood to benefit Four Diamonds Fund. Celebrities that graced the red carpet to help fight pediatric cancer included Skyler Day of NBC’s Parenthood, Joe Mantegna of Criminal Minds and Brandon Routh of Superman Returns. The event included musical performances by Drake Bell, DJ Splyce, Bex and Vanjess.

A total of 170 dancers committed to standing and dancing for the entire six hours to raise a minimum of $250 dollars each for the charity. Vanessa Werkheiser, daughter of event founder Gary Werkheiser, stated the dancers ended up going above and beyond the required fundraising amount, raising an average of $500 each.  The event itself, which is based on Penn State’s 46-hour Dance-a-Thon, was planned by Penn State alumni at an event in Werkheiser’s backyard.

Actor and musician Drake Bell, who amazed the crowd with a standout performance, was just one of the many celebrities on hand with a love for charities and giving back. Bell worked with The Who’s Roger Daltrey and, when asked what it was like working with a rock legend, the very modest musician answered, “It was a dream come true. He was in one of my favorite bands of all time.” Along with enjoying The Who, Bell is quite fond of other timeless classic rock bands, such as The Beatles. “If I could perform on stage with anyone, it would have to be Paul McCartney,” said the 26-year-old former Nickelodeon star. As both an actor and musician, it seemed difficult for him to choose which one he enjoyed more. “I have been doing both for so long, but music is close to my heart.” The music industry has been treating him well, he says, and he’ll soon be touring and releasing a new album. Some of his current top hits include, “It Makes Me Happy” and “Found a Way”.

Bell also mentioned that he has a new show in the works. “I’ll be participating in this new ABC show called Splash.” The series has a total of ten celebrity cast members, such as Kendra Wilkinson, who will be trained to synchronize dive and compete in pairs.

Throughout the night Bell and other celebrities made an effort to talk to fans and even bust a few dance moves. Spirits ran high throughout the entirety of the event and every single person exuded passion and love for the cause. Tears were shed during speeches regarding Four Diamonds Fund and the unveiling of the total amount raised, $67,851.10.

Devon Werkheiser & The Smokey Knights

Life After The Bachelorette: A Chat with Chris Bukowski

By Allie Duncan

Chris Bukowski never imagined he would be a contestant on Season 8 of ABC’s The Bachelorette. A Bartlett, IL native, he grew up playing football, basketball and baseball and eventually attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He majored in Hospitality with a focus in Food and Beverage before eventually landing a job with the New York Islanders in New York.

“I moved out to New York for work and was happy there,” says Bukowski. “My friend Shannon from Bartlett nominated me for the show without my knowledge. She wrote a three-page letter explaining why I should be on the show. I didn’t get to see it until after filming wrapped.”

What happened next is history. The Bachelorette casting team tried to get in contact with Bukowski a number of times via phone and email to no avail, as Bukowski believed a friend was playing a joke on him. He ignored the team for two months before moving back to Chicago, where the casting team had said they would be conducting interviews at a nearby hotel.

“I figured I would just meet with them since it was near my condo,” says Bukowski. “I knew they wouldn’t leave me alone otherwise.”

After an action-packed season, Bachelorette Emily Maynard eliminated Bukowski from the show after his hometown date in Chicago. Although he did not win the girl, Bukowski still took away some lessons in love.

“I learned that love is possible,” says Bukowski. “I think what the show did was make me open up and realize what I’m capable of emotionally, insofar as expressing myself to a girl. Basically, The Bachelorette is a sped up relationship, a thousand miles per hour. It’s just you and her, and she’s the only girl in the world. If there’s not that initial interest or initial connection, then you won’t have a good time on the show.”

Bukowski’s time on reality television did not end after being sent home on The Bachelorette. He then appeared on Season 3 of ABC’s Bachelor Pad, where he soon became known for being a womanizer.

“I’m really more authentic than I seem on TV,” says Bukowski. “And they didn’t show this on the show, but Sarah and I decided that if we won the money, we were going to give half of it to Habitat for Humanity. I do a lot of charity work now. We realized that there were people out there who need the money more than most of us do.”

Sarah Newlon was Bukowski’s partner on the show, where they competed against other Bachelor alums for $250,000. The two started a romance onBachelor Pad, much to the dismay of the other female contestants.

“Sarah is great,” says Bukowski. “She’s probably the most real girl on the show and the one I could relate to the most. She’s the one who would have been in my friend group back at home. But once you leave the show, it’s just tough. I went to D.C., and she’s in St. Louis. You have that relationship on the show, but after it’s all said and done, it’s not that easy when you’re in different places. But we definitely still talk.”

Newlon isn’t that only castmate that Bukowski keeps in touch with post-show. He cites many of his former cast members as being some of his best friends now.

“I keep in touch with Kalon, Jef, Arie, and Ed, who is a little crazy,” says Bukowski with a laugh. “I’m really good friends with Jaclyn and Rachel. Even people who weren’t on my season, I talk to a lot.”

Aside from staying friends with his former castmates, Bukowski plans to go into business with a few of them. He recently moved to Washington, D.C. to open a restaurant in Clarendon, VA.

“My life changed a lot after the show,” says Bukowski. “I always had dreams and goals I thought I’d reach in my early 30s that I’m reaching now because of the opportunities and publicity from the show. I always wanted to open a restaurant and now I am able to – it’s going to a be an upscale sports lounge with small plates, where you can go to watch the game during the week, too.”

Bukowski’s excitement about his restaurant venture is palpable, and he explains that it’s been a team effort with his friends and family being supportive in helping him. He’s shooting to open the restaurant sometime in the spring with the timing being around April or May.

Bukowski plans to eventually open a few restaurants on the east coast before returning to Chicago.

“I would love to settle down in Chicago, “ says Bukowski. “I miss it so much. Chicago is my favorite place. D.C. is great, too – it’s different, but I definitely love it.”

He says he’d love to try every restaurant in Chicago, and he roots for all of its major sports team. However, the Cubs are closest to his heart, as baseball is Bukowski’s favorite sport. He does note, though, that the Bears are fun to watch.

“If the Bears are losing, I’m throwing stuff in the house,” says Bukowski. “There are only 16 games in the season so it’s intense. But if the Cubs are in the playoffs, I can’t even watch. I’m a mess hiding in the closet.”

Bukowski will be back in Chicago for Christmas, which he plans to spend with his family. He’s still looking for that perfect girl, though.

“I don’t really know what the perfect girl is,” says Bukowski. “I’m still looking for her. As far as her personality, I like a girl who is confident, self-motivated, and someone that will lean on me – but not too much. She has to have her own thing going on, too. Physically, I notice the eyes first, and I love good eyes – they’re number one. A good smile is number two.”

But when it comes to dating, Bukowski says he doesn’t date much. He loves going out to different restaurants and trying new things, but he says dating is tough.

“It’s hard to know who I am going to enjoy having a first date with,” says Bukowski. “There’s a 50% chance that you’re not going to have a good time. But if you go out with someone you already know, then you’ll probably have fun. It’s hard to find someone new to have fun doing new things with.”

Bukowski should have no trouble finding a girlfriend, though, having been voted “Class Hottie” in a high school class of more than one thousand people. But it’s not his only priority.

“What’s next for me, aside from my new restaurant, is finding myself a wife,” jokes Bukowski. “I have all these good things going on so it’d be nice to share it with someone else. But you can’t go out there and make something happen – it has to happen naturally. So maybe I’ll go back on Bachelor Pad.”

Here’s hoping that we have another season of watching Bukowski on Bachelor Pad!

Betsy Stewart: Capturing the Microscopic Cosmos

By Robert Luce

Not many artists can say the specimens they draw inspiration from can fit into a petri dish, but then not every artist is Betsy Stewart. Her abstract paintings depict the microscopic life found in pond water. “In my new series, “Biocriticals”, I am interested in creating an ambiguity between micro and macro: what is happening in microscopic water as well as events in the cosmos,” she says. “If I am successful, my viewers will determine for themselves whether they are seeing particles/matter through a microscope or through a telescope.”

Stewart is one of several artists whose work will be on display at the Center for Great Apes Endangered exhibition in Miami, December 5 through the 9 at Miami Club Rum Distillery. “My work on view includes a piece from each of four different series that share a common theme,” explains Stewart. “I examine microscopic, mutually dependent life systems found in pond water. Giving these images a presence speaks to our fragile position in the cosmos.” In anticipation of the event, we chat with Stewart about beginnings, galleries and the Center for Great Apes.

When did you realize you were going to be an artist?

I have always felt I was an artist. From childhood through my junior year in college I studied modern dance. I particularly loved the movement and structure of dance. When I was introduced to painting through a studio arts requirement, I found the creative aspects of placing paint on a canvas to be reminiscent of choreographing a dance performance. My compositions to this day play with the elements of color, form and movement, choreographed in harmony with the natural world. The career change was seamless, and I have never looked back with regret.

What was the first piece you ever did?

I was, very early on, influence by Amedeo Modigliani who was a primary figure of modernism. His mask-like faces and elongation of form inspired me to create a head of a studio model that exemplified these tenants.

What is a typical day for you? Walk us through your process.

"Aquatilis No.12 (side two), 2010, 75"x 8"x4". Acrylic and sumi ink on wood.

“Aquatilis No.12 (side two), 2010, 75″x 8″x4”. Acrylic and sumi ink on

My morning is normally spent on art related work such as making arrangements for my future gallery shows. I reach my studio in the late morning where I work steadily until the end of the day. I work on one singular piece at a time, adding multiple layers of transparent acrylic paint imbedded with ink drawings. Like a composer hearing the overall composition, I have mapped out in my mind’s eye where all the key subject matter will be placed, but the rest happens in a very automatic intuitive way with each paint stroke leading to the next mark. My evenings also tend to be related to art given the fact that Washington, DC has many museum activities in the evening and there are endless gallery shows.

How do you describe your work?

The voice of my work is truly reminiscent of the philosophical writings of the great environmentalist John Muir who wrote: When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find that it is attached to the rest of the world.” I explore the connections in nature from a droplet of water to the vastness of the cosmos.

What type of person do you paint for?

I paint, first and foremost, to please myself. I would imagine that I am painting for an audience extremely sensitive to the forms I create and the colors I use. Since I have recently sold three major paintings to a corporation that employs molecular biologists and physicists, I may unconsciously be seeking an audience that can appreciate the science underlying my work.

What exhibition are you most proud of and why?

It is very difficult to single out just one exhibition, as each one has been challenging and satisfying.  Having said that I am quite proud of my latest exhibit at the Ian Tan Gallery in Vancouver where I presented my recently completed 7’x4’ “Bioverse” series to an audience totally unfamiliar with my work, who expressed interest and appreciation for it with meaningful purchases.

"Metascules No.5", 20012, 67"x47". Acrylic and sumi ink on canvas.

“Metascules No.5″, 20012, 67″x47”. Acrylic and sumi ink on canvas.

What are some of your favorite museums and galleries? Why?

I am partial to galleries that select artists who have shared sensibilities and also employ great skill in mounting their exhibitions. I visit galleries that take chances on new media. I am as impressed with museums that have iconic collections as well as smaller museums that emphasize creative curatorial depth. For example, the exhibits at the Vancouver Art Gallery astounded me recently. Each floor featured shows with unusual, provocative themes; the art was installed with a flair for design including the use of unusual color on the walls. The wall text was succinct and informative.

What do you find to be your biggest challenge when painting?

My biggest challenge when painting is constantly to discover fresh and insightful new ideas while expressing my own voice.

How did you come to be involved with the Center for Great Apes? 

I first became aware of the Center for Great Apes through fellow members of the Explorers Club who had been active with the Center. Since I greatly admire the work of the Center, I was most pleased when I learned that Octavia Gallery, who are handling several of my paintings, was going to be exhibiting with them in Miami. I was delighted when I learned that proceeds from sales would go in part to the Center.

Why is it important for people get involved with the CFGA?

It is important to get involved with the charity and I strongly support their goals: the great Apes are in grave danger and their fragile environment must be protected.

For more information on Betsy, visit Betsystewartpaintings.com.

Norman Gitzen: Heeding the Siren’s Call

By Robert Luce

For decorative metal sculptor and naturalist Norman Gitzen, a good day for him is when he doesn’t need to leave the driveway of his South Florida home. The Liverpool NY native isup very early, drinking his skinny coffee while he sits by his pond feeding the turtles, koi, rabbits and squirrels. He then “downs a quick eggnog” and tries to decide which of the twenty or so projects, some he has already started, to work on that day. “Paying jobs and commissions come first of course,” he laughs.

Describing his sculpting style as always inspired by nature, it’s no wonder that the stone and wood sculptors work will be appearing at the Center for Great Apes Endangered exhibition in Miami, December 5 through the 9 at Miami Club Rum Distillery. “A friend of mine at the Center for Great Apes, Terri Mersentes, asked if I would like to display my work at the event,” says Gitzen. “I have been wanting to get involved with the Center for years, so it was a no brainer!”

Recognizable Abstract

The son of a carpenter, Gitzen learned how to properly use tools at an early age. Upon graduating high school in 1978 he went right into construction. “I designed a house and started homeowner building on a one acre lot in rural western Lake Worth, Florida in 1990,” he recalls of the old world style Spanish Mediterranean two story home. “I love old buildings that have sculpted architectural elements throughout the outside facades and interior as well.”

In 1992 he started sculpting corbels. “I found myself putting them all around the house; under soffits, over doors and fireplaces,” he says. “I made molds of my architectural elements so they could be reproduced and sold to decorators and home owners.” Gitzen wanted to show his work in local Palm Beach galleries but was told his work was too functional, and that he should make some abstract. That heeding of advice led to his most famous work to date, The Siren.

The Siren’s Allure

The Siren

The Siren

“I started the Siren at the request of a decorator around 1997,” says Gitzen. “She told me she had a wealthy customer who wanted an outdoor abstract sculpture about 6 feet wide x 10 feet tall.” Gitzen had always loved mermaids, but it wasn’t until he went to the circus that he figured out the exact pose he wanted his provocative piece in. “I saw a beautiful Asian woman performing amazing gymnastic feats, and when she balanced her stomach on a ball with her feet bent over her head, I knew that was the pose! And I designed her in a fashion that I call recognizable abstract.”

Since it was Gitzen’s first steel and bronze piece, and no one was paying him up front to make her, he took his time. “It was a slow process as much as it was a learning one,” he says. Unfortunately, it was that combination that led the designer to eventually find something that was already made for her wealthy client. Now, with no time limit set on the completion of the sculpture, he would work on it when time allowed.

In 2005, after working on the Siren for about 6 1/2 years, the Vice Mayor of Wellington, FL at the time, Lizbeth Benaquisto, saw the sculpture at Gitzen’s home during the Wellington Art Society’s annual Art Walk. Benaquisto fell in love with the piece. “She was interested in posting it in front of the Wellington Community Center for one year as part of their new Art in Public Places program. She said you have two months, so I worked like crazy for two months full time and finished her.” Within two days of The Siren being installed she was the talk of the town. “She continues to open doors for me,” says Gitzen. “I have sold many smaller all bronze versions of her.”

The Vanishing

Gitzen Working on One of The Vanishing Pieces

Gitzen Working on One of The Vanishing Pieces

While Gitzen’s provocative Siren helped thrust him into the national spotlight, you won’t be seeing it (or its smaller more portable versions) at the CFGA event. Instead, you’ll be seeing a work from The Vanishing Series: recognizable abstract pieces which focus on land and sea creatures we are losing from pollution, unsustainable fishing and farming, deforestation and loss of habitat. “I am currently working on a Vanishing Bluefin Tuna that I plan to bring to the Center for the Great Apes event as a work in progress,” he says. “The Bluefin Tuna only has a couple years left on the planet if we do not take the necessary steps to make things more sustainable.”

No stranger to charity events (over the years his sculptures have earned over $40,000 for the Palm Beach County Boys and Girls Club) and the dynamics of them, Gitzen has a back-up plan if his Vanishing Bluefin Tuna piece doesn’t sell right away once it’s complete. “I’ve talked to my friends at Green Peace about displaying it in front of their building in Washington D.C.,” he says. “As a lifelong nature lover and environmentalist, I feel it’s my job to make society aware of the environmental perils it faces.”

For more information on Norman, visit NormanGitzen.com or Artistsassociationofjupiter.com.

Visions of the New Miami: Alexander Mijares

By Eleanor Cecconi

Standing in his bright white artist’s loft and residence that overlooks glorious views of Miami’s Biscayne Bay, I listen to artist and businessman Alexander Mijares talk about how his humble artistic beginnings led to a recent meteoric rise to fame. Exceeding even his own early expectations, Mijares has wowed the local and national art world with his stunning paintings and sculpture. Selling his painting “Alter Ego” at a record high in October 2012, Mijares has met with great success after painting for only one year. I met Alexander at a charity benefit for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in September, and was excited to sit down with Miami’s hottest new artist in his studio and find out what makes him tick.

Any viewer can see that Mijares’ vibrant works are driven by emotion, sensory experience, and dream-like visions. The exuberant colors, mosaic-like compositions, and themes utilizing masks and corsets all contribute to the exotic nature of his canon. It is no surprise much of his inspiration comes from actual dreams. “I like to take a nap in the afternoon to get inspired. I turn on nice Spanish music, or something of the sort, and doze on the couch. Almost instantly I fall into REM sleep and have exotic dreams. When I awake I am refreshed and immediately begin painting. The music, the subconscious imagery, and my passion for expressing myself drives the intense focus I maintain while I work.” Inspired by the sensuality of music, his travels throughout the Mediterranean, the energy of the surrounding water, and his rich Cuban/Spanish heritage, Mijares’ pieces are a rich synthesis of warmth, light, and shadow. His fusion of Cuban with new styles is representative of the new Miami.

Mijares At Home

Mijares At Home

Humble Beginnings

Mijares is one of those uber talented artists that heard his calling after completing education for another field. “I attended Northeastern in Boston for undergrad. When I graduated, I came back home to Miami and became an integral part of my family’s metal fabrication business. I attended Florida International University and received my Masters degree in Business Administration. Everyone jokes because immediately upon finishing my graduate degree, I began my art career. But I truly believe that my body, my mind, wasn’t ready to create this art and expose myself to the world before this point.”

But Mijares didn’t meet such success immediately. His beginnings are humble; in fact I have never heard a story so honest and humorous. “I moved into this great loft space with many large, empty walls. As I was shopping for art to fill them up, I noticed everything I saw was so incredibly expensive. One day I had the idea- maybe I should try painting something myself. I bought a large canvas, paints, and a couple of brushes, and just went at it. For the days I couldn’t figure out why my paint wasn’t sticking to the surface of the canvas; the paint was sort of dripping or bleeding. I struggled with it, and after the first layer was set, I noticed the next layers stuck to the canvas just fine.

Upon completion of the painting, I brought the canvas to a friend who is a framer and specializes in stretching canvases. I dropped it off with him and promised to come back later for my stretched canvas. A couple of hours go by and I receive a call. It’s my friend and he says, “Alex, did you have a problem when you were painting this canvas?” Of course I said yes because it had been a major struggle at the beginning. He said, “That’s because you painted on the wrong side.’ I laughed but it was a humbling experience. It really indicated I had so much to learn and had a long journey ahead of me.”

"Alter Ego"

“Alter Ego”

Shooting Star

While Mijares agrees he still has a lot to learn, the journey to recognition wasn’t quite as long as expected. As Mijares continued painting, he attended Art Basel 2011 and got a sense of what was out there. “I went to Basel last December and talked to a lot of people. I saw work that was in all of the galleries, looked at what was selling. I realized at that point that what I was working on in my studio had a lot of potential. The whole experience actually made me more confident that I had something to offer.”

Since that realization, Mijares has been named “The New Color of Miami” by Venue Arte magazine, the Director’s Choice artist of the Santa Fe Museum of Art, and “A genius of color and shapes!” by Brazilian-American neo-pop artist Romero Britto. His art has been featured at esteemed locations such as The Marquis Hotel for the Venue Magazine Cover Party, FKCNR event (a charity fundraiser aiding children with cancer), the Lupus Foundation, ISA boutique, Coral Gables Museum, Baltus: The Spanish Art of Luxury (an upscale showroom in Miami), The Blacks Gala, American Cancer Society Gala and The Well to name a few.

Mijares At Work

Mijares At Work

Change, Street Art & Slippers

Ever the businessman, Mijares is careful to strike a balance between exploring his emotional landscape and staying in tune with what galleries and buyers are craving. “I have friends in the gallery world. I frequently have lunch with them to discuss my work and what I could do better. They have become invaluable mentors throughout my artistic process. They may say something like, ‘Why did you put arches in the foreground? This painting would have been more successful if you had left them out.’ I learn from every work I do, I’m constantly open to change and growth.”

Mijares has begun experimenting with merchandising and street artists on unique collaborations as part of his new direction. He spoke to me about groundbreaking new projects with excited enthusiasm. “Del Toro, a local Miami shoe brand, has picked up a few of my designs and put them on limited edition men and women’s velvet slippers. They were unveiled at the Wynwood Building on October 13 during Wynwood’s monthly ArtWalk. I’m also working with extremely well-known street artists in Los Angeles and Barcelona on a couple of collaborative paintings. I’ve flown out to visit them and been in touch. Basically I am painting a canvas, mailing it out to them, and they are taking their own creative approach to transforming the canvas. We will be tying in Spanish art with street art in a unique new way. I contacted these guys on Twitter with my project ideas and they were really open to it. We haven’t seen many people taking this approach to collaborative blending between street and gallery art before. I’m excited about what 2013 is going to bring.”

Mijares notes, “Art has been my diary. It’s a private relationship between myself and the canvas.” Indeed, Mijares’ dream-like canvases feature exotic females, sensual masquerades, medieval architecture, and distorted shapes. But his influences draw from a rich artistic history that has been in place for decades. While heavily influenced by Picasso in general, Mijares says he looks to many different artists for inspiration. “A friend of mine has a massive collection of art books, so when I visit him I choose some to bring home and study. I’m always looking at the work of differing artists- It’s a great way to keep my work fresh.” On his table now I notice Phaidon and Taschen editions of Miro, Matisse, Calder and M.C.Escher. If these are any indicators of what’s to come in the future, I am excited to track Mijares’ multi-faceted trajectory into artistic stratospheres.

Mijares has been asked to be on the Young Associates Committee for the Coral Gables Museum’s Party in the Plaza on November 2, 2012, where his work will also be featured for the second year in a row. An exhibit is also being planned at the W Hotel for Art Basel 2013, details to be determined. You can stay up to date on Alexander Mijares, his accolades, press, and upcoming collaborations at Mijares.com, or on Facebook at Facebook.com/mijaresart.