AIDS Research Alliance Presents ARTSEEN 3 featuring A Taste of Los Angeles Review - Celebrating Southern California Art and Cuisine

On a balmy evening set at Smashbox Studios in Culver City where the infamous Mercedes Benz Fashion Week is annually held, AIDS Research Alliance ( ARA) wrapped up their Multi-Day Benefit with an outside gala affair of fine cuisine and innovative art on display for public view and silent auction bidding.  The four day benefit was sponsored by various organizations such as the William Morris Agency, Bonhams & Butterfields, Rowan Lofts, Gallery Row and Capital Group Companies just to name a few.

Patrons gather around to view works by local artists and enjoy drinks at the complementary open bar


The back lot of Smashbox Studios was transformed into A Taste of Los Angeles which showcased some of LA’s finest dining establishments who had graciously donated their time and their effort to provide patrons and guests sample delights.  Each restaurant had their own bazaar-style station set up in the middle of the back lot where they could serve everyone buffet style.  Whether it was smokehouse barbecue from a grill or pizza from a wood burning stove, each restaurant dished out their finest entrées, appetizers and signature drinks.  Restaurants that participated in this event include: 

Akasha, Beechwood, Bottle Rock, Beacon, Flat Bread Pizza, Geisha House, Spring Street Smokehouse, Industry Café, Bella, Chaya Brasserie, Cook’s Double Dutch, Ford’s Filling Station, Green Leaf Chop Shop, Wilson’s, Jer-Ne, M Café, Uncle Darrow’s, Ketchup, Republic, Larchmont Grill, the Restaurant at the Standard Hotel

Overall, there were an array of choices to arouse your sense of “taste” as one couldn’t help but be intrigued by what each booth had for presentation. 

Chaya Restaurant was one of the restaurants that participated in the event


This benefit would not be complete without the infamous red carpet and media photojournalists.  Celebrities, art aficionados and entrepreneurs took their time to show their support and their love of art for a good cause. 

Tracey Ullman being interviewed by CTN

Noted celebrities who made their appearance include:  Tracey Ullman ( THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW), Thea Gill ( QUEER AS FOLK), Ashley Benson ( DAYS OF OUR LIVES), Sofia Vassilieva ( MEDIUM), Barbara Lazaroff (Restaurateur and Interior Designer for Spago’s), April Bowlby ( TWO AND A HALF MEN), Poppy Chaplin (Actress/Screenwriter), Alexis Arquette ( THE SURREAL LIFE) and Rob Minkoff (Director of THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM and the STUART LITTLE series). 


Left to right, Thea Gill (QUEER AS FOLK) puts together this last minute number for the red carpet and looks absolutely stunning, while Ashley Benson (ex-Abby; DAYS OF OUR LIVES) was all smiles for the camera

What really made the evening enjoyable was the fact that the event not only raised money (to continue funding for HIV and AIDS research), but also the event showcased the works of emerging local Southern California artists through live and silent auction.  ARA invited over fifty influential guest celebrities to participate in a special and inspirational photography exhibit.  The exhibit, aptly entitled Snapshots:  Images of Hope offered celebrities to capture their own ideological view of their concept of hope.  Celebrities who took part in this series include:  Marcia Cross, Efren Ramirez, Nicholle Tom, Kristi Yamaguchi, Shar Jackson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt just to name a few.  The event gave the opportunity for the general public to view and/or to own works that these artists poured their heart and soul into creating for a good cause.  Guests also got the chance to show their artistic side as volunteer workers provided their bodies as a canvas to paint on.  A perfect way to get the crowd interactively involved in the evening’s festivities. 

Another highlight was observing local artist Carlos Raphael Vera start the evening out with a large landscape blank canvas at daylight and three hours later (well into the evening), his blank canvas evolved into a striking masterpiece worthy of being displayed in any major art gallery. 

Check out this amazing transformation:

Progression #1: Carlos Raphael Vega started out with a blank canvas

Progression #2: Carlos Raphael Vega's landscape continued to evolve throughout the evening

Progression #3: Carlos finally puts finishing touches and detail on his latest masterpiece

Progression #4: The finished product of Carlos Raphael Vega's work of art three hours later

For more information on Carlos Raphael Vera, please visit his website at ( 

As the daylight slowly faded into the background, the Blackbox lit up on the back lot @ Smashbox Studios to showcase the main event – the live auction - which was put together beautifully by the people of Bonham & ButterfieldsG. Ray Hawkins, auctioneer extraordinaire, provided the evening with oomph and enthusiasm as he presented each item up for bid.  Items that went up for bid ranged from a $100 bill that was autographed by contributing artists to a set of portrait photographs of Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton which offered up some laughter as to how much were they actually going to sell for.  The ending price was $400 for both portraits.

As the auction began, people waited patiently for every item up for bid and for the people who had a bad seat, the item was projected on the wall as well

All in all, ARA once again put together an amazing effort and collaborated with some of Los Angeles’ top restaurants and ground-breaking artists to provide an evening to remember. 

For more information on how you can do your part in promoting HIV and AIDS awareness throughout your community, learn more about this annual event or to make a donation to help continue ARA’s ongoing research in their fight for finding a cure please visit their website at ( 

All photos by Jerod Williams

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