On October 20, the Marciano Art Foundation, already replete with a trove of supercharged contemporary art of its own, will welcome even more into its lofty marble halls. That’s when they host the 2018 edition of the biannual charity art soirée that is the aptly named Sexy Beast. Less of a benefit auction and more of an arts-based micro-festival, Sexy Beast for Planned Parenthood LA started in 2014 under the Night Gallery auspices, before the torch was passed in 2016 to Sonny Ruscha Granade and what soon became a core trio of indomitable, inspired women who use their respective skill sets and social arrays to produce a genuinely progressive vision of what giving and social responsibility can be.
Granade, in seeking to augment her established art-world milieu, teamed up with close friend Kristen Stegemoeller, a brand strategist and writer with deep roots in the design world, and Tera Uhlinger, an experiential director and brand strategist with an impressive career in national music and events production. The results have been transformative for everyone involved.
Reimagining the creative ways in which artists, musicians, designers, chefs, and other influencers can contribute fresh ideas, merchandise and covetable fine art to one of the most important causes of our lifetime is just the beginning. It’s also super important to the women of Sexy Beast that the event itself be a memorable, affable, inclusive, fashion-forward straight-up good time, whether or not you score a masterpiece at auction. And that’s where the party starts.
“The gala is our personality,” say the team. “Fashion, music, pop- up shopping, design, all of it. It’s about elevating the very idea of a fundraising gala into a more full experience. Tickets start at $350 and you’ll have an amazing time even if you don’t buy a thing. Everyone is included and valuable.” Centering around a variety show hosted by rising-star comedian Kate Berlant (daughter of iconic LA artist Tony Berlant), and honoring legendary artist Jenny Holzer, the night also plans a series of illustrious performances from rising musicians and dancers, as well as custom designs from the likes of Virgil Abloh and Gabriela Artigas for sale, polished off with drinks and bites from some of LA’s hottest chefs.
Of course, it’s still a benefit event, and it started in the art world, so there will be an auction—a silent one this year. Which means they almost never have to turn the music off. All the work in that part of the night is offered for $10K and under, and in place of the drag of the live auction, they’ve organized private pre-sales on bigger ticket items from Cecily Brown, Ed Ruscha, Jennifer Steinkampf, Rashid Johnson, Jonas Wood and others.
Before taking over Sexy Beast, Granade had worked on the CalArts and ICA LA capital campaigns, where she got a taste for arts- based philanthropy and community organizing. When Night Gallery approached her she said yes right away, but she knew she would need partners to make it work. “I could never do it by myself! And Kristen has been my bestie since 10 years ago hanging out at Ghettogloss. She’s a badass. Now she’s the brain, our writer, our voice.” A simple twist of fate brought Tera into their lives, a friend of a friend, and a woman who had quit her full-time corporate job and was volunteering as much of her time as she could. “I had a version of this model in my mind,” she says. They met, sparked, collaborated, and soon she was a partner. “It just made sense,” they say, and they’ve never looked back.
Sexy Beast is a platform, a potentially transferable model, exportable to other charities and other cities—artists and designers working in true collaboration with people that move culture, and who explore different ways to interact with non-profits and brands and people. “Planned Parenthood itself both is and isn’t a brand,” says Kristen. “In LA, they are literally saving lives in our community. Last year, PPLA provided 242,000 visits to 140,000 patients, 90% of which are below the federal poverty line. Where else are they supposed to go?”
“We need to normalize a conversation about using PP,” says Tera, “and about birth control and reproductive agency in general. Everyone has their personal PP story. It doesn’t matter what you’re using it for, only that you have the choice.” And by bringing in creative celebrities, they hope to move the needle in the right direction. “When sexy, glossy, high-profile people stand behind the cause,” says Kristen, “it makes a difference. It makes people pay attention.”
Get your tickets to the Sexy Beast After Party at The Marciano Art Foundation on October 20 Here.
Written by Shana Nys Dambrot
Photographed by Nolwen Cifuentes
Styled by Soaree Cohen
Hair and Makeup by Courtney Housner and Emily Zempel