Wine Inspires Art: Upcoming Auction Benefits Unique Santa Barbara Studio

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 10/26/17


"Mountains" by Slingshot artist Wayne Dreyer
on a bottle of 2016 Willson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir
The wine label as a canvas. It can be effective, in the way it lures the eye, and it can be attractive. At SlingShot, it’s also a powerful thing.

SlingShot may well be the most special little art studio and gallery in Santa Barbara. It’s a creative outlet for close to 50 budding artists from throughout the county – men and women who come here to hone and showcase their talents, to interact with visitors and to sell what they create. These are some of our community’s finest who, despite their developmental disabilities, can use their knack for art to express themselves and to become empowered.
"Tumblers" by James Jasper

SlingShot is located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara and open Monday through Friday, and by appointment. It’s a creative extension of Alpha Resource Center, the nonprofit that offers life skill and training programs to developmentally challenged kids, teens and adults. They help more than 2200 local families every day to secure housing, train for jobs and find a multitude of creative and recreational outlets. SlingShot, which allows adults not only to create art but also to display it and sell it, is an Alpha success story.

“SlingShot is about the powerful ability of art to affect people,” says Tyler Willson, an Alpha board member. “For the participants, it gets them inspired and it gives them confidence in their art and in themselves."

Willson and his wife, Mia, were introduced to Alpha the day their beautiful daughter Mylie was born. Mylie has Down’s syndrome, a diagnosis her parents weren’t aware of until the day before she was delivered. “All the tests we took during the pregnancy came back negative,” Willson tells me. Mylie would see multiple hospitalizations and surgeries before age two.
"Lady" by Rachel MacKenzie

Alpha Resource Center became a lifeline for the Willsons – an immediate link to information, experts and resources to parents who found themselves totally in love with their second child but totally caught off guard, all at the same time. “They are such wonderful people,” says Willson.  “Not just for what they’ve done for us, but also for what they do for so many other people who can’t do it for themselves.”

Today, 9-year-old Mylie is thriving – a happy, playful, spirited young lady bursting with personality (and with a real flair for gymnastics).

So the Willsons have found a special and very personal way to say thanks.

The couple owns one of the very few vineyards in Carpinteria, a fertile half-acre plot in the back yard of their Sheperd Mesa home of Clone 777 pinot noir. They planted the vines themselves in 2009, and harvest each year since has always been a family affair. The wine – about two barrels’ worth each vintage, or about 20 to 25 cases – is made by Fabian Castel, assistant to celebrated winemaker Adam Tolmach at Ojai Vineyard.

"Blue Tulips" by Frank Quaranta
The Willson Family Vineyard wines have now become liquid assets for SlingShot. The family donates a barrel a year to the gallery, and the bottles it produces are labeled with diminutive versions of original Slingshot art. The wine label as a canvas. And for the artists, who see their artwork manifested in a fresh new medium and who now have a new vehicle to promote their talent, a powerful thing.

These bottles – assets as much for the wine they hold inside as for the art they feature outside – are the inspiration behind Wine & Art, a spirited auction that earmarks all proceeds for Slingshot. The funds go directly to the artists and to the studio’s operating costs. “The more we cover their costs, the more staff they can hire, and the more participants they can help with services and resources,” says Willson.

"Octopus Clown" by Megan Isaac

I’m proud to emcee this year’s second annual Wine & Art, and I hope you’ll join us. The fundraiser takes place Saturday, November 11th from 6pm to 8:30pm at SlingShot, 220 W. Canon Perdido in Santa Barbara. Many of the silent auction items are a wine lover’s dream, including exclusive bottlings by Margerum, Grassini, Consilience, Ojai Vineyard and Liquid Farm. Winemaker Doug Margerum has donated a 3-liter bottle of the 1986 Pine Ridge cabernet sauvignon from his private cellar, a wine valued at more than $1000. And to adorn the Willsons’ pinot, original works by 12 Slingshot artists have been selected as featured labels; the wines will be featured as individual bottles, a select number of assorted six-packs and one grand prize case featuring all 12 art pieces.

Works by SlingShot’s resident artists will be featured, too. Lifestyle items range from passes to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and dinners at Barbareno restaurant and Joe’s Café to seafaring experiences from the Santa Barbara Sailing Center and tickets to upcoming performances of The Nutcracker by State Street Ballet. The Cork Pull – a $20 donation that guarantees a bottle of wine worth at least $20 – is back. And so is Chef Scott Wallace from SB Wine Dine Build, whose grilled sliders last year knocked it out of the park!
 
Tickets are less expensive if you buy ahead of time: $50, versus $60 at the door (with an attendance cap of just 120 people). If you’re a business or group looking for a fun night out, ticket bundles of six are $275. Check out alphasb.org/events.
 
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