Hollywood has the Oscars, San Francisco has the Black & White Ball, and Benicia has the Annual Benefit Art Auction & Gala.

Now in its 18th year, Arts Benicia’s annual Gala has matured into a dazzling affair. This year’s signature fundraising event will take place on Friday, September 24 at the spacious and urban style IronHorse Home Furnishings Showroom at 990 Grant Street (near Arts Benicia’s gallery.) Purchase your tickets now, because seats are limited and last year’s gala sold out early.

“This event promises to be bigger, better, fancier and more fun than ever. The space is gorgeous, the artwork will be stunning and food will be delicious,” says Larnie Fox, Executive Director. “This will be a wonderful chance for the community to come together to support and celebrate Arts Benicia."

The Gala is a celebration of Benicia’s most precious assets: its art and artists. It is also the organization’s primary fundraiser with a goal to gross $50,000 to support Arts Benicia’s ongoing exhibitions and related public programs. There will be a special appeal this year to raise support for Arts Benicia’s hands-on, interactive gallery programs for K-12 children and youth designed to engage, inspire and improve lives through the visual arts.

In 2009, Arts Benicia made a commitment to increasing the event’s revenue and effectiveness over a three to five year period. This was greatly due to the basic survival needs of the organization in a crushing economy, but it also created an opportunity for Art Benicia to boost public awareness about its important role in cultural fabric or our community, and its mission to “stimulate, nurture, and educate the cultural life in Benicia and beyond.”

As part of this effort, Arts Benicia hired Ed Gold from the premier fundraising auctioneer company Reynolds & Buckley. Ed offers planning and logistical support to the auction committee for months leading up to the event and then brings boundless enthusiasm and stagecraft at the event.

“Ed is a powerful talent on and off stage,” said Mike Kendall, an Auction Committee member and a long-time artist who lives and works in the arsenal. “His ability to entertain and inspire the audience about the cause without demeaning the art or artists is such a big plus.”

This year’s auction committee is chaired by Board Member Cherry Moore, and the team has no shortage of imagination. Among many creative touches, guests will enjoy an elegant family style sit-down dinner with fine wines and beverages, and the added luxury of complementary valet parking at the magnificent new event location.

“The IronHorse space has an edginess to it with thick concrete walls and ceilings that go up forever,” says Cherry Moore. “I love that we’ll be having the party in one great big room, and having the silent and live auction artwork on separate walls this year will help us all track the status of our favorite pieces.”

There will be approximately 60 artworks from a range of media in the live and silent auctions donated by a mix of established and emerging local and regional artists. In addition, guests can bid on a number of Adventure Packages that offer unforgettable, once-in-a lifetime experiences. Overall, there will be fewer lots than in past years to encourage the highest value for each auction item. Still, there will be rare opportunities for new and veteran collectors alike to bring home original art at an affordable price – and for a very good cause.

“There will be surprises. It’s pretty much a choreographed experience that’s designed to stimulate the audience and leave a lasting impression,” said Mike Kendall. “Hey, that’s art.”

So put on something sparkly and hold on to your seats (but first you have to get one.) This is going to be a sensational and sold-out event again this year. For more information, or to get your tickets now, visit www.artsbenicial.org or phone 707. 747.0131.