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Graffiti Artists Make Their Mark

Vibrations from the bass thumped through the walls and the aroma of incense filled the second floor of Special Sauce in Huntington village, but what could resemble a party was actually an exclusive, charitable art show.

Twenty-two artists from across the glove came to show off their graffiti-based artwork at the Street HeART exhibition on Thursday evening and benefit the Guardian Brain Foundation – a Long Island organization aiding victims of brain tumors and injury.

“If I can donate in any way to a cause, why not?” Huntington artist Brendan Munday said.

Thursday’s event was a private showing and the opening to the exhibition, with roughly 150 invited guests, including internationally acclaimed graphic artist Mike Perry. Perry also donated artwork towards the 40 piece collection on display and to be auctioned off to benefit the Foundation. Foundation Board Member Marin Ruggiere said $600 in artwork was sold the opening night, or about four pieces ranging from $60 to $300 a piece, said Special Sauce Event Director Vanessa Diaz.

The Auction was to be opened to the public over the weekend, the board member said. She added that the content would be displayed until everything was sold.

“We’re going to make sure every piece is sold,” Ruggiere said.

Other artists with ties to the Town of Huntington also donated creations to be sold, although the results of the public auction were not available by press time. Brent Gentile grew up in Huntington with a mother that worked in internal design. Now living on his own in Rhode Island, Gentile confirmed that’s where the floral patterns on his work originate. Of course he also draws graffiti and 19th century fashion culture.

“I consider myself a painter more in the traditional sense,” he said.

On the other hand, Munday tends to let his street based art wander into other unusual mediums.

“As long as it holds ink or paint,” Munday said.

Woodbury-based artist John D. Herz turned to a more traditional media for his contribution – pencil. Herz unveiled “Man of Many Colors,” a large drawing of Special Sauce co-owner Pete Szczebak and the tattoos covering his torso. Inspired by his first chance meeting with Szczebak, the artist said he was creating the piece before he learned of the charity event. He rushed to finish the drawing in time, throwing it in a nondescript frame for the show.

“It’s not even framed the way I would like it,” Herz said.

Guests at the show said they did not expect the Woodbury artist to sell the drawing, although he later said that he’s selling limited edition prints. Creating no more than 100 prints, each costs $1,500, for sale at the event.

Ruggiere said Street HeART was created after she walked into the Huntington store – which opened November 2008 – and met Diaz and Szczebak. By September, they were working on the show.

“We wanted to get another demographic involved,” she said.

The Guardian Brain Foundation was created seven years ago after Ruggiere’s uncle died from brain tumors. Sadly, doctors caught the disease too late and could not save him.

“Within three months of being diagnosed, he passed away,” she said.

The organization now helps provide home care, hospice care, travel expenses and holistic medicine. For example, Guardian recently provided a 7-year-old boy and his family with a van and motorized lift. Ruggiere said the Foundation also arranges for experts to meet with people in their local library or other community centers. This allows caregivers the ability to learn and cope.

“It started through just our family, then our family friends came in and now it’s branched out across the island,” the Board Members said.