Valentine’s Day may have been last week, but the celebration continues at Rustic Roots café in Shelburne where 94 unique heart-shaped of works of art will deck the walls in a fundraising exhibition that runs through March.

Colorful, whimsical and poignant, HeART Show 2019’s collection is up for auction with proceeds going to Outright Vermont, the Burlington-based nonprofit that supports gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth ages 13-22. The organization serves more than 2,100 young Vermonters each year along with their teachers, family and community members.

“We’re thrilled to be involved,” said Dana Kaplan, executive director of Outright Vermont. He said it was a surprise when Rustic Roots co-owner Ashley Campbell approached the group as the possible beneficiary of the show’s fundraising.

“It clearly is a labor of love,” Kaplan said of Campbell’s efforts.

Images of the hand-decorated pieces that Campbell calls “heARTworks” are posted online on an auction website. Bids start at $75 with a goal of $4,500 for the fundraiser. The total as of Tuesday had reached $3,475.

Kaplan said Outright Vermont tends to focus on two large-scale fundraising events of its own each year, with hopes of raising five figures each time. Still, the auction is greatly appreciated.

“We consider a major gift $200 or above,” Kaplan said.

Like many Vermont eateries and coffee houses, Rustic Roots is known for its ever-changing exhibits of visual art, often created by artists in the community and across Vermont. This is the third year that Campbell has undertaken the “HeART Show” fundraiser. The first was in 2016 when she said she thought a winter show timed around Valentine’s Day would be fun, but she looked for a unique twist. The heart theme paired with the goal of supporting a nonprofit caught on.

Each year, the exhibit has grown with 94 entries in the current display, including works by South Burlington artists. Each artist worked with a heart form or the form’s dimensions. Most of the artists are from Vermont – 18 from Shelburne alone, and many others from nearby communities. Some from out of state have connections to Vermont. Participants include high school and college art students, others are professional artists or hobbyists.

Kaplan said the show gives Outright Vermont a chance to connect with new people through art. It also helped shape the exhibit – staff invited artists they knew to participate, which brought some new talent into this year’s show.

Each piece is truly unique. Artists employed a wide array of media for their creations: paints and pencil, textiles and fiber, metal, wood, stone, glass, paper and even seashells and bones. Real insects pop out of one piece; twigs adorn another; a 3-D goat demands eye contact.

At least half of the proceeds from the sale of each piece will be donated to Outright Vermont. Some will split the sale with the artist; many are listed with 100 percent of the selling price being donated.

Each year, the show and auction have supported different local nonprofits that serve young people. Campbell said the first auction raised $3,000 for Burlington’s Spectrum Youth & Family Services. Last year’s show netted $4,000 for the Janet S. Munt Family Room, she said.

This year’s goal is slightly higher.

“We’d like to build on it each year,” she said.

Campbell said she turned to her staff and friends for suggestions for this year’s recipient organization and Outright Vermont kept popping up.

“We really thought it was important to support an organization where a donation this size would make a difference,” she said.

The choice and the show’s opening this month has turned out to be timely.

Outright Vermont was in the news recently as one of three Burlington organizations targeted by hate messages from a white supremacist group. The Pride Center of Vermont, an LGBTQ social services provider, and Ohavi Zedek Synagogue were also singled out.

“Our youth need positive examples of hope and success,” Kaplan said, adding that too often, LGBTQ youth deal with negativity and adversity. “It takes power and resilience to be aware of who you are regardless of what the world tells them to be. We need to celebrate that.”

The art show and unsolicited fundraising is a nice boost.

“This sends a message that there is a community here offering support,” Kaplan said.

The online auction closes Feb. 28, but the exhibit will remain on view at Rustic Roots through March 31. Any pieces not sold by auction will be available for purchase for $75 each through the end of the show with proceeds going to Outright Vermont.

Rustic Roots is located in Shelburne village at 195 Falls Road. The auction is online at rusticrootsvt.com/artists.

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