"Over the past three years, third-grade students from the Southeast Neighborhood School for Excellence (SENSE) have fed nearly 1,000 hungry people by making and selling ceramic plates at Tonic Gallery, an annual fund-raiser for Second Helpings. The kids’ work is a remarkable display of philanthropy, made even more so when you consider this: SENSE students are some of the poorest in Indianapolis. According to Dr. J.C. Lasmanis, the charter school’s CEO and head, a full 90 percent qualify for a free or reduced lunch. In other words, they may well be feeding hungry children just like themselves.
Lasmanis says civic engagement is an important part of the school’s educational program. “Besides academics, one of the things we want kids to learn is civic pride and community involvement,” he says. Through their work at the Tonic Gallery, the kids learn they can help someone else while making a difference in their community.
Engagement is what motivated Paul Wilson and other Tonic organizers when they created the gallery three years ago. Held in 2002, the first Tonic Ball raised money through ticket sales for a concert featuring local musicians and bands. “I wanted to engage artists the way the ball engaged musicians,” Wilson says.
Scheduled for Nov. 17, 5:30-8 p.m. at the Wheeler Arts Community, Tonic Gallery will feature the kids’ painted plates ($25 each) along with artwork from notable artists including Rob Day, Kyle Ragsdale, Quincy Owens, Susan Hodgins, Artur Silva and others. Each piece will be priced at $100 and sold via silent auction with a ceiling price of $400. All proceeds benefit Second Helpings. “Even at $400, it’s an incredible deal,” Wilson says. According to Wilson, Tonic Gallery has raised $18,000 since its inception, and fed nearly 21,000 people with the help of the artists and the kids from SENSE.
Lasmanis says the program has become an eagerly anticipated tradition. “Kids can’t wait to get to third grade so they can be a part of Tonic Gallery,” he says.
For information on the Tonic Ball, where 30 of Central Indiana’s top rock, folk, jazz, funk, country and pop artists gather to celebrate the songs of the Talking Heads at Radio Radio and the songs of Prince at Fountain Square Theatre (Nov. 17, 8 p.m. $20), see our story in the Music section. For info, call 317-624-9900 or 317-632-2664, ext. 20.