September 17, 2009 in Washington Voices

Artists help Habitat for Humanity

Jennifer Larue

Otis Orchards artist Joel Rabe, pictured here at his studio with a wall sculpture he is creating for the Spokane Housing Authority, is among four artists who plan to donate artwork to Habitat for Humanity for a fundraising auction on Friday.
(Full-size photo)


The Habitat auction Friday will feature a silent auction at 5 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., followed by a live auction with 25 distinct packages, including a week in Hawaii with airfare. For ticket information, call (509) 534-2552.

To see Joel Rabe’s work, visit the Web at www.davincipainting; Dara Harvey at com/darallison; Kay O’Rourke at kayorourke; and Ed Gilmore at

Habitat for Humanity-Spokane will hold its 14th annual “Raise the Roof” auction on Friday.

This year, a new element called “Art for Habitat” has been added to the auction. Artists Joel Rabe, Ed Gilmore, Kay O’Rourke and Dara Harvey will donate pieces made from housing and construction materials found at the Habitat store, 850 E. Spokane Falls Blvd. and 11410 E. Sprague Ave.

“The artists were chosen based on the diversity of their styles and our various degrees of connections,” said development director Courtney Susemiehl. “We limited it to four artists because we weren’t sure what the response would be and we wanted to keep it manageable,” Susemiehl said, “Next year we’ll probably have more artists.”

Rabe, 48, has been creating esthetically pleasing “habitats” for others ever since he opened his business, Davinci Painting Co., six years ago. His mother was in the hospital with cancer and he spent a lot of time there watching HGTV, which televised footage of faux finishing painting techniques, which he tried at home. “A designer friend of mine saw what I had done and told me I could do it for a living,” he said. So he left his career in business and became a full-time artisan.

Since then, he has created visually appealing surroundings in dozens of homes and businesses including a home at Legacy Ridge in Liberty Lake, the teen cancer center at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, a Chinese adoptee’s panda room and a bathroom that looks like a cave. Rabe also creates personalized caricature drawings and a line of greeting cards called “Outdoor Dave,” based on his father.

Currently, Rabe is working on a piece for Spokane Housing Authority in a large studio on his Otis Orchards property. It is a 20-foot by 4-foot, 200-pound piece of high density polyurethane on which he is carving Spokane landmarks. After he is done carving, he will coat it to look like stone.

Rabe has been “giving back” for years by donating his time and talent, and he believes in the power of art. “I think art is important because it is reflected in our daily lives, it’s all around us,” he said, “Art is an expression of one’s feelings or emotions, art can be used to enhance, brighten, or evoke reaction. It has the ability to sway moods.”

For the auction, Rabe is creating a functional piece of art made from a glass lampshade, an old door and an altered cabinet. O’Rourke will be donating an embellished child’s chair and a trunk. Harvey will be donating a reworked cabinet. “I spent four hours wandering through the Habitat store until I came across something that called to me,” she said. Her piece includes tile work and an intricately painted top, and Gilmore will be adding layers of paint to his Habitat findings.

“The auction is a fun way for the community to help build a Habitat home with an auction paddle instead of a hammer,” Susemiehl said.

Contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by e-mail

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