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  • Writer's pictureFriends For Life

And So, It Began

Upon arriving in Memphis, Juan Fuentes rich history with HIV/AIDS activism drew attention in the community and led to an invitation from a friend to attend the Shelby County Ryan White Planning Council where he met many people advocating for services in Memphis. Juan said, “Though the planning council was a short-lived task, I got to know many people from Friends For Life, many of whom are very good friends today.”

In 2012 Juan joined the board of FFL and he worked to develop a fundraiser centered on works of art and local artists. Juan recalled, “After many meetings, consultations, discussions, and get-togethers to figure out how to put this event on, the committee came up with the idea to call it Art Dash. I decided to take the ball and run with it! And so, it began in 2014. We collected donated pieces including paintings, pottery, jewelry, all together about seventy-five pieces. Theatre Memphis, hosted the first Art Dash, which included help from their opening night party caterers. They offered a beautiful menu at a terrific low price. If I remember correctly, we netted about seventy-seven hundred dollars from that first event.”

Not only did Juan work tirelessly to coordinate the signature fundraiser, enlist other nonprofits to partner, personally contribute pieces and secure art donations, he also secured our longtime sponsoring partner, The Frame Corner. Juan recalled, “To make pieces more presentable and beautiful, I talked to my friends at The Frame Corner, a frame shop I have used for many years which is located at 5035 Park Ave, in East Memphis.” Owners Marc and Susannah Young, who are artists themselves, remain very enthusiastic about this event and have helped Juan since day one with framing design and color selection to enhance donated pieces. The Youngs also have made generous donations from their personal art collection and sponsor a portion of framing costs, which Juan puts together himself. Thank you to the Youngs and The Frame Corner, for your continued support for framing and for donating art for Art Dash, we hope this will be a long partnership because your contribution has made the event a smashing success.

Juan said, “Since I left the board, I have continued to collect art and frame pieces for the event. The 5th Annual 2019 Art Dash had fantastic results, netting about forty-three thousand dollars from over 500 donated pieces to support programs at Friends For Life. Last year many quality pieces were donated by my dear friend Wendy Skarda, which really raised the bar. I look forward to helping with this project for years to come as I consider it a personal challenge to make this event a continued successful fundraising source for Friends For Life.” The 2020 Art Dash is tentatively scheduled for August. If you are interested in learning more about Friends For Life, the Art Dash event, sponsoring or donating a piece of art, please email Follow Juan Fuentes on FB and look for him beaming broadly at the 2020 Art Dash event!

Juan simply put, you are a divine inspiration and a work of art yourself. We love you.

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