Just a few weeks ago, New Yorkers couldn’t have imagined how different our lives would become. In this short timeframe, our city’s dynamic has drastically shifted to an empty Times Square and mandatory face masks. During especially challenging times like these, there are people who rise up to help the needs of others. Paul Gramigna is one of those people. I spent some time talking to Gramigna over FaceTime to ask him about how he started his newest endeavor, the Art for Food Auction, and what he hopes to do for the people in our city.
Gramigna is a glass artist based in Queens. He grew up in Westchester County, NY, and started practicing glass art in 2009. His first introduction to glass was in college, through a group of friends who were blowing glass in a garage. “I was pretty blown away. My roommate and I scavenged all the money we could and our friends helped set up a little glass shop in our garage.” He found his passion in this medium and while he never took an official class, he learned new techniques from trial and error. Most of the pieces he creates are through lampworking, a method that employs a small torch and a kiln. Currently, he focuses his craft on creating pendants, goblets, and pipes. He enjoys working on a small scale, with meticulous details and vibrant colors. He finds inspiration in botanical elements, a nod to the gardening experience he accrued throughout his youth.
Gramigna started the Art for Food Auction on Instagram, in hopes of raising money for the Food Bank of New York City. His goal is to donate a total of $25,000 by selling art, alongside an anonymous donor who has pledged to match every dollar up to his goal, for a total of $50,000. This money would provide 500,000 meals for the Food Bank. I asked Gramigna how his idea came about. He explained, “I was driving around with my girlfriend, Stephanie Jimenez, and we started talking. I felt like there had to be some other way to be helpful to the situation rather than just isolating ourselves.” His girlfriend had been a long-time donor to the Food Bank and they were both interested in providing further assistance. Gramigna said he would make as much glass art as he could to raise money and auction it online.
Just a few weeks in, he has had over 50 artists donate works to him ranging from photography to sculpture to street
On the auction’s first day, an anonymous donor contacted Gramigna. The donor said they had a small group of people who were matching the money amounts. Support also came from the Food Bank of NYC, who set up a page on their website to promote his auction. A few days into the auction, Gramigna realized that he couldn’t make enough glass to hit his target of $25,000. He opened up the platform for donations and was contacted by dozens of artists online. Just a few weeks in, he has had over 50 artists donate works to him ranging from photography to sculpture to street art.
Every day at noon, Gramigna posts a work of art that has been donated. Bidding takes place in the post’s comments. The bidding period lasts 24 hours and ends at noon the following day. Gramigna highlights each artist the day before bidding to showcase their work and give more information about the artist themselves. Once the bidding has closed, he sends its sum to the Food Bank donation page, where it is matched by the donor. Gramigna makes an effort to learn about the artists and talk to them for their spotlight. He collaborates on the ongoing effort with his girlfriend, who manages publicity and editing while Gramigna operates artist outreach and the auction itself.
Each and every piece is significant, helping raise awareness and funds for the cause.
Gramigna made nine pieces for the original auction and has been blown away by the support and perseverance of the country’s vast art community. “An entire community of artists who were complete strangers to me, all of them reached out wanting to donate pieces ranging from hundred-dollar pieces to multi-thousand-dollar pieces.” Each and every piece is significant, helping raise awareness and funds for the cause. Gramigna expressed gratitude that the arts community has been so supportive, even though they are one of the groups most heavily impacted by the pandemic.
Regarding the community at large, Gramigna has seen some changes. “I’ve already met so many great artists who I would have never made friends with. All of us artists tend to stay in our own little creative space and don’t want to share techniques or secrets. All of this stuff is gaining the trust of other artists and other people. This was difficult in the beginning, but once it started going and the cause was there, it has really helped the auction along. It has been invaluable to meet other artists and have the community come together and realize we are all a smaller art community than it may seem in New York.”
While the aid has been wide-reaching, there have been obstacles. Gramigna has faced challenges in his effort to pull more supporters to his page. He has amassed a wonderful community of artists to donate works, but he wants the auction to be more visible to potential bidders. It’s difficult to have a social media-based initiative reach masses of people in a short amount of time, especially in a time where the nation’s unemployment rates are continuing to climb. “I’ve never done an initiative like this in my life. I’m a little new to it and I’m learning as I go. I’ve been getting better at writing about artists and explaining the ideas” the artist/organizer explained.
“Most people realize they aren’t just getting a piece of art out of this, that’s kind of the bonus.”
During our interview, I could see Gramigna’s compassion for people and assisting those in need. He spoke on the issues of the nation: job losses, grocery price increases, and overall instability. “This is a small help. It feels really amazing to see the donations grow every day. People are catching on. Most people realize they aren’t just getting a piece of art out of this, that’s kind of the bonus. They are making a donation and every one-dollar equals ten meals with the food bank.”
Artists Involved In The Auction:
5ive Fingaz: @5ivefingaz
Solveig Eva: @solaevadraws
Victoria Waite: @victoria.waite.art
Tracy Penn: @Tracypennart
Cabell Molina: @cabellmolinaart
Tom Krantz: @tomkrantzhaha
Sean Kengla: @sean.kengla
Lecrue Eyebrows: @art_by_eyebrows
Chris Tuorto: @christuorto_artist
Kathryn Sabath: @kgs.creates
Hannah Chavez: @hannahchavezart
Zero Productivity: @zeroproductivity
Ermis A: @ermisart
Anjali Menon: @ilajna
Vladimir Weinstein: @vladweinstein
Hansu Bansu: @hansu.bansu
Sideshow Glass: @sideshowglass
Gnarly Harley: @Gnarly_Harley_Glass
Teresa Rainieri: @Teresa.rainieri
Elizabeth Nahum-Albright: @e_nahumalbright
Shamona Stokes: @Shamstoked
Oskar Lavista: @Oskar_Lavista
Eugene Cuoco: @genoarts
Raddington Falls: @RaddingtonFalls
Rabid Artwork: @rabidartwork
Art by Kir: @artwork_by_kir
Janice Everett: @janicee280
Cassie Rae Artistry: @cassieraeartistry
Token 3784: @its_all_sticky
G.S. Bullen: @g.s.bullen
Brandy Bajalia: @brandybajalia
Remington Jay: @remington.jay
Silent G Glass: #silentgglass
Paolo Tolentino: @paolo_tolentino