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Inaugural art and wine gala is elegant event

Posted: October 1, 2008 8:45 p.m.
Updated: December 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Sotheby's auctioneer Blake Koh takes bids for "Rush Hour" by George Scribner. Sotheby's auctioneer Blake Koh takes bids for "Rush Hour" by George Scribner.
Sotheby's auctioneer Blake Koh takes bids for "Rush Hour" by George Scribner.
Helen LaPrairie and band performed during the Sept. 20 art and wine gala at the Tournament Players Club. Helen LaPrairie and band performed during the Sept. 20 art and wine gala at the Tournament Players Club.
Helen LaPrairie and band performed during the Sept. 20 art and wine gala at the Tournament Players Club.
The seafood station featured a seahorse ice sculpture. The seafood station featured a seahorse ice sculpture.
The seafood station featured a seahorse ice sculpture.
CalArts President Steven D. Lavine accepts a $25,000 check for the Joe Ranft Scholarship Fund from Su Ranft. CalArts President Steven D. Lavine accepts a $25,000 check for the Joe Ranft Scholarship Fund from Su Ranft.
CalArts President Steven D. Lavine accepts a $25,000 check for the Joe Ranft Scholarship Fund from Su Ranft.

It was an evening to celebrate the arts - and friends of the arts packed the Tournament Players Club to experience the artistic value of food, wine and fine art. Nearly 150 supporters of the arts in the Santa Clarita Valley attended the inaugural TPC/West Ranch art and wine gala held Sept. 20 to benefit the Joe Ranft Alumni Scholarship Fund at California Institute of the Arts.

The event, with honorary chairman Roy E. Disney assisted by Dave Bossert, Cheri and Don Fleming, Guy LeLarge, Ken McMahan and Greg McWilliams, featured a champagne reception followed by a five-course gourmet dinner and dessert crafted by TPC Executive Chef Daniel Otto.

The evening raised more than $50,000 for the first-year event, with a special $25,000 donation offered by Su Ranft, widow of the late CalArts alum Joe Ranft.
Ranft, who died in August 2005 in an automobile accident, studied at CalArts from 1978 to 1980. Ranft left CalArts in 1980 for Walt Disney Studios before moving to Pixar.

Dave Bossert of Stevenson Ranch, also a CalArts alumni, conceived the gala with the help of Guy LeLarge of Valencia Wine Company.

"This is a really nice event. Dave Bossert and I started talking about this two years ago - that Santa Clarita needed a wine and art auction," LeLarge said. "We talked about it for about six months and it's been in the works for a long time. It's our first year and we're going to make history with this event. We're going to raise money for the arts. That's what it's all about."

As guests arrived for the champagne reception they were served starters of tray-passed canapes, filet mignon kabobs and free range chicken brochettes. A seafood station complete with a seahorse ice carving featured jumbo Santa Barbara prawns.

Bossert said his inspiration for the event came from a chance viewing of the Napa Wine Auction while channel surfing.

"I was really fascinated by it and I thought, ‘Wow, what a terrific event,'" he said. "About a week later I was at the Valencia Wine Company, down on Town Center Drive, with Guy LeLarge, who is my co-conspirator in this event. I said to Guy - "Wouldn't it be great to do an art and wine auction here in the Santa Clarita Valley and raise money for the arts?' And Guy, without hesitating, said, ‘Let's do it.' So we started down this road of dreaming about what this event was going to be."

LeLarge said he sourced all the wine at the event, including wine for the dinner and for the auction.

"I've sourced all the wine and Dave (Bossert) has sourced all the art, with artists through Disney and artists they know from all around the world. They're in the art business and I'm in the wine business," LeLarge said.

LeLarge said his 25 years in the wine business provided him an opportunity to obtain many of the evening's wine donations.

"I want to thank some of my wonderful friends in the wine business who basically gave us everything we asked for. If you see anything in a bottle, it was basically given to us and it is going to raise money for a great cause," LeLarge said.

Among the artists with work featured in the auction were Jim Salvati, Glen Keane, Erick Goldberg, Mike Kupka, Monte Trevor Carlton, Harrison Ellenshaw, George Scribner, Noah, Tim Rogerson, Laura Owens, Ross Bleckner, Rick Baker, Mike Gabriel, Timothy J. Clark, John Rowe, James Coleman, Don Hahn and Randy Hand.

Honorary chairman Roy E. Disney was unable to attend the gala as he was out of town on a promotional tour for his new film "Morning Light," scheduled to open Oct. 17.

However, his son Roy Patrick Disney spoke briefly.

"I'm the stand-in, or maybe the stunt double, I'm not sure," Disney said to appreciative laughter. "But I want to thank you on behalf of my dad for coming tonight. I told Dave that this may be the first event but there's a great opportunity for 10 years from now to look back and remember this night. The arts are a vital part of the fabric of any community and should be nurtured as CalArts does with their own student body. It should be nurtured, grown and appreciated by all residents of the community."

The emotional high point of the evening was the check presentation by Su Ranft to CalArts President Steven D. Lavine.

"Joe told me and - I know he's told many people - art saved his life. Not everybody is reading, writing and arithmetic," Su Ranft said. "Every time he heard about a school program closing down their music department, their art department or dancing or theater, that was a blow to him... He loved CalArts when he was a student - and when he was able to return there as a teacher... he loved to teach...
On behalf the entire Ranft family I'd like to present this gift to the Joe Ranft Scholarship Fund."

She received a standing ovation as Lavine approached the podium to receive a hug, and the check from Su Ranft.

"Animators often start out as storytellers - or as Joe did as a magician. Animators almost always have known since they were 5, or 6 or 7 that this is what they were going to do. Only the dancers have worked as long as the animators to get into CalArts," Lavine said. "But it's very expensive once you get in. I think 80 percent of the students are taking out loans of one form or another. A scholarship is the only thing that can make a difference - that the most talented kids really get a chance. Roy Disney told me when I first came to CalArts 20 years ago that the only films that don't get old are animated films. When you watch a classic animated film you watch as you watched it as a child, the wonder stays intact. It's a very special art, animation."

Erica Bitton, a third year acting student in the bachelors program, is the first recipient of a Joe Ranft scholarship.

"I actually found out this week that I have a scholarship, it was right when I was looking at my online banking account and sweating," she said. "It really means a lot."

Among the items offered in the silent auction was "The Nightmare Before Christmas" book signed by CalArts alum Tim Burton.

Many of the fine art pieces in the live auction were paired with wine offerings.

The live auction, with auctioneer Blake Koh of Sotheby's, brought in more than $26,000. Koh was named Sotheby's director of fine arts, West Coast in spring 2002 where he oversees consignments ranging form Old Master paintings to contemporary art.

The big ticket items in the life auction included a Modena diamond watch which fetched $1,700; several story sketches from "Destino" - a collaboration of Salvador Dali and Walt Disney that began in 1945 which brought in $1,150, $1,100 and $900 in three separate lots; "Behold Her Heart," a fine art canvas of the evil queen from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" by Noah paired with a La Fenetre Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - the subject a furious bidding war ending with a $1,400 winning bid; artist Ross Bleckner's unframed work "Birds," which earned $1,700, and Timothy J. Clark's "Artist on Hill" paired with a book signed by the artist which brought $1,800.

Bossert said George Scribner, a friend of nearly 20 years, was among his first contacts to seek donations for the auction.

"He is just an incredibly talented guy at Disney," Bossert said. "I asked if he would donate a painting and he said, ‘Absolutely.' A week later I asked if he would paint a picture up at TPC and he said, ‘Absolutely.' George has been terrific," Bossert said.

Scribner's original painting, "Better Use a Sand Wedge" earned $1,100 to benefit the scholarship fund.
Other artists in attendance included Harrison Ellenshaw, son of a Disney legend for his work on "Mary Poppins" and a talented artist in his own right with credits on "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back," and Rick Baker, who won the first Academy Award for Best Makeup for his work on "An American Werewolf in London."

The signature work of the live auction was a sculpture of "Buttocks the Clown" by Randy Hand which fetched $3,900. The bronze sculpture, No. 2 in a limited edition, is a colorful representation of Joe Ranft in his "Buttocks the Clown" costume which was designed by his wife, Su.

The original "Buttocks the Clown" costume - crafted by Su Ranft - was on display in the TPC lobby where guests could view the original inspiration for the small bronze sculpture.

The evening's menu was devised by TPC executive chef Daniel Otto and guests dined on a first course of beef consume with pearl vegetables and shredded duck confit followed by a second course of pistachio polenta timbale topped with petit herb salad with pureed chickpea and truffle garlic oil drizzled with a honey lemon thyme vinaigrette.

The intermezzo course featured a house made lemon sorbet with Yuzu simple syrup. The main course included pan seared Chilean sea bass atop black currant chutney and Snake Rivers Farm Kobe filet drizzled with pinot noir glace accompanied by wild mushroom and goat cheese en croute.

Each course was presented as if it were edible art, including the fifth course of Spanish manchego, triple cream brie, dried fruits and candied pecans.

"The artwork is beautiful, the wine is wonderful, the weather is cooperating and it's a lovely evening and it's something different," Cheri Fleming said. "It's a fun thing to do in Santa Clarita tonight."
Bossert acknowledged not only the donors and supporters of the event, but also the staff of volunteers and others, including his family.

"Believe me, this was a family affair," Bossert said, as he pointed out the accomplishments of his wife, Nancy, who designed the beautiful catalog, and his daughters who also helped out in various capacities.

As guests finished the dessert course of Vallrohna chocolate marquis with strawberry coulis and Mandarin orange creme brulee, Helen LaPrairie and her band brought the crowd to their feet dancing to oldies and goodies on the TPC patio. Executive chef Daniel Otto and the kitchen staff were called out to receive a hearty round of applause for their efforts by the gala guests.

"It was an unbelievable meal and great wine. There's great music - this is a fantastic night," Scott Wilk said. "This was the A-list party in Santa Clarita tonight."


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