The fundraiser of misfit toys

Green Bay arts nonprofit SAGE hosts its second annual Toy Maker’s Fundraiser at the Neville Public Museum

A collection of toys crafted by local artists for the Toy Maker’s Fundraiser. John McCracken photo

There’s a giant piece of cake at the Neville Public Museum. And a snake. And a multi-eyed, moth-like cryptid.

These guests aren’t part of a historical exhibit—they’re toys made to benefit the Green Bay arts community.

Green Bay arts advocacy nonprofit Share, Accept, Grow, Encourage, Inc (SAGE) hosts its second annual Toy Maker’s Fundraiser from Nov. 9 to Dec. 15 at Neville (10 Museum Pl). The toys are stitched together by SAGE founder and president Stacey Burkhart. From there, local artists add their flair and design to the blank creature canvases.

The collection of toys is available for auction from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15. All proceeds from the auction benefit SAGE.

In addition to her leadership role at SAGE, Burkhart is the owner of Eight Trees Company, a memory animal business that provides keepsakes of clothing and other articles to families and friends in remembrance of lost loved ones.

Last year, Burkhart combined her roles and started recruiting local artists to paint toys to be displayed in businesses throughout the community. This year, Burkhart said the fundraiser is more structured and the organization is learning as they go.

“I think, if we’re honest, every time you do something for the first time it’s total happenstance and guessing how to handle things,” Burkhart said.

Burkhart said last year there were 84 toys compared to this year’s 30 and the change allows the fundraiser to be both a call for artists for emerging artists and an invitation for tenured artists as well.

“We wanted that good balance,” Burkhart said, “just to kind of say thank you for contributing to the community but also allowing the emerging artists to be a part of things.”

Local baker and artist Betsy Wijas made a stuffed cake to be bid on in this year’s second annual SAGE Toy Maker’s Fundraiser. John McCracken photo

Burkhart said artists could showcase their artistic mediums, styles, art supplies and show off local artists in their own element.

“That’s why you’ll see a giant piece of cake in this fundraiser,” Burkhart said, “because one of our contributing artists (Betsy Wijas) is a baker. But she took time over the last year to learn how to use different paint mediums to create a frosted effect.”

In addition to the cake, snake and moth-bear hybrid, there are some dinosaurs, a llama, a hippo, an anteater and other creatures decorated and painted to show off the unique style of each local artist responsible for the piece.
Burkhart said the variety is part of SAGE’s mission to connect local artists, which has always “felt like family.”

Nevile Public Museum Executive Director Beth Lemke said hosting the Toy Maker’s Fundraiser was a great way to collaborate with local artists.

“They’re (SAGE) filling a void that is really important,” Lemke said. “And to be able to highlight and feature so many predominant local artists in a very fun way I think is a win-win for the community.”

Neville will also get in on the menagerie with a large, stuffed mastodon on display and available to be bid on starting on Saturday, Nov. 27. Proceeds from the mastodon benefit the Neville Public Museum Foundation.

More information about the fundraiser can be found here.


John McCracken is the Editor of Green Bay City Pages. He can be reached via email at jmccracken@mmclocal.com or on Twitter @jmcjmc451.

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