Fountain House Gallery Auctions 100 Artworks at Mad About Art Benefit

New York, N.Y.  We have attended and reviewed Mad About Art for years. This November’s event was the best ever – an unqualified success, artistically and financially.

JL_Issa IbrahimFountain House Gallery artist Issa Ibrahim with his installation,
“Krypto in Captivity.”
 Photo: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

What is Mad About Art, you ask? Nothing short of a miracle.

A project of Fountain House Gallery, it is a mix of New Yorkers living with mental illness using art as a way forward, paired with philanthropic New Yorkers who care about the artists and their work.

JL_Rohlf Marchand-2Auction exhibition curator Jason Rohlf and Fountain House Gallery artist
Marina Marchand. Photo: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

This year, for the 18th time, this annual benefit event was held in Manhattan, for the fifth time at Metropolitan West near The Intrepid on West 46th Street. Nearly 400 attendees were on hand to celebrate Fountain House Gallery and its artists.

JL_Dario Pratts CarmelEvent Founding Chair Dario Gristina, and Event Chairs Bonnie and Frank Pratt
and Carmel Fromson. Photo: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

One hundred artworks were presented via electronic auction to benefit the Gallery, located in Hell’s Kitchen. All Gallery artists are members of parent organization Fountain House, the most widely replicated evidence-based mental health treatment approach in the world with over 300 model programs serving over 100,000 people throughout the United States and in more than 30 countries.

JL_program bookPhoto: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

Fountain House is the first mental health organization to receive the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the largest and most prestigious recognition of humanitarian efforts.

The Mad About Art auction exhibition was curated by noted contemporary artist Jason Rohlf. Among the art mediums represented in the striking array were acrylic and watercolor painting, collage and mixed media, sculpture, jewelry, woodcut, and digital photography.

JL_DJ Dylan SparkleD.J. Dylan Sparkle kept the tunes coming. Photo: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

In addition to the works presented for auction, site-specific art installations were made by five Fountain House Gallery artists who were prompted to explore their creative visions of a forest. Each artist developed these ideas into an immersive, engaging, large-scale artwork made expressly for Mad About Art.

JL Ariel Ashwin FrankFountain House Gallery Director Ariel Willmott, Fountain House
President & CEO Dr. Ashwin Vasan with Event Chair
Frank Maresca. 
Photo: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

The environment and décor at the event reflected the “forest” theme – not the enchanted forest of folklore and fantasy but rather an updated take on this classic motif, interpreted through the lens of a contemporary art experience.

JL_Alyson VegaFountain House Gallery artist Alyson Vega with her installation,
“Shinrin-yoku Forest Bathing.” 
Photo: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

Fountain House Gallery Director Ariel Willmott said to the assembled guests, “The work done within our walls does not remain there. The artists bring their passion into the community to inspire others.

“Guests at Mad About Art and at our Gallery exhibitions experience the hope, sadness, joy, protest, compassion and most importantly the humanity expressed in the artworks. This creates a ripple effect that transforms the way people think about mental illness and the potential of artists to change hearts and minds.”

JL_Spangenberg and canineFountain House Gallery artist Susan Spangenberg with canine art enthusiast.
Photo: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

I’ve watched with admiration as the activities and influence of Fountain House Gallery have expanded under Ariel’s leadership.

The new President and CEO of Fountain House, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, addressed the gathering, speaking with inspiration of the groundbreaking Fountain House legacy and of building upon that foundation with strategic plans for the future. Ashwin took the helm of the organization after the recent retirement of Kenn Dudek, who led Fountain House with distinction for nearly three decades.

JL_Ariel hi resFountain House Gallery Director Ariel Willmott.
Photo: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

Guests at the event were moved as we viewed a PBS NewsHour profile of Gallery artist Miguel Colón, known for his bold painting style. A mural created by Miguel is currently on view at First Street Green Art Park on the Lower East Side.

Although the art auction was silent, veteran auctioneer Peter Costanzo was on hand to conduct a live auction of luxury items. A rousing Paddle Raise provided an additional boost to fundraising.

Mad About Art honored two recipients of the Esther Montanez Leadership Award: our old friend Carl T. Hagberg, Chairman, Carl T. Hagberg and Associates; and our new friend Stephen Siegel, Chairman, Global Brokerage, CBRE.

JL_ART VIEWERS NO CAPTIONPhoto: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

The Award, established to honor the memory of Fountain House Gallery’s founding director, is presented in recognition of exemplary service to the Gallery.

The Event Chairs were Lawrence Benenson, Phong Bui, John Casaly and Louise Parent, Carmel Fromson, Scott Gottlieb, Francis Greenburger, Peder Hagberg, Frank Maresca, Apryl Miller, Bruce Mosler, Bonnie and Frank Pratt, and Melissa and Gerald Uram. The Founding Chair is Dario Gristina.

JL_Angela RogersFountain House Gallery artist Angela Rogers discusses her work with a guest.
Photo: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

Fountain House Gallery and Studio ( provides an environment where artists living with mental illness can express their creative visions and exhibit their work. Founded by Fountain House in 2000, the storefront Gallery in Manhattan sells original artworks, collaborates with a wide network of artists, curators and cultural institutions, and challenges the stigma surrounding mental illness.

The Studio, established in 2017 in Long Island City, is a collaborative workspace that furthers the professional practice of Gallery artists. It is also open to the wider Fountain House community during designated hours.

JL_LucE Honorees-1The author with honorees Stephen Siegel and Carl T. Hagberg.
Photo: Leslie Barbaro Photography.

We support the programs of Fountain House because they empower people with serious mental illness to live and thrive in society.

Written with Camille Tibaldeo.

Fountain House Gallery
702 Ninth Avenue @ 48th Street
NYC 10019
(212) 262-2756
Hours: Tues.-Sat. 11-7; Sun. 1-5
More than a gallery. A movement.

Fountain House
425 West 47th Street
NYC 10036
(212) 582-0340

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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

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Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce ( writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (, he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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