A Conversation with Armando Mejorado, Artist and Co-Host of Annual Fundraising Extravaganza

This interview is long, long overdue — like about 10 years, to be exact. For that, I feel horrible. But today, I’d delighted, because I am pleased to share my conversation with artist Armando Mejorado, and tell you about an upcoming event he and his partner Gary Desmond will host on Sept. 22.

Q: Armando, I’ve been following your Facebook posts about your upcoming party, and am beginning to feel like a stalker, but I can’t look away.

This year’s fundraiser sounds pretty amazing.

Can you take a break from your crazy schedule – that’s it, put down the scissors and paint brush – and tell us about it?

Thank you, Doni, for being a Facebook stalker. It means I’m doing something exciting.

This charity art event – “Silver Lotus” – will be held at our private home and art gallery. It’s a fusion of metal sculpture and fashion, a nine-piece collection of my own interpretation of a modern geisha. Each piece is my own design, with nine different hand-sculpted head dresses. I’ve selected all the fabric, and I’ve designed and cut all the kimonos’ patterns.  I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine before, so credit goes to my mom for teaching me how to use one.

Q: That’s pretty impressive that you picked up sewing well enough to create complex kimonos. But knowing you, of course you learned to sew quickly. Besides, you know how to weld, and I’ve heard that sewing and welding have some things in common, so maybe that’s why you took to sewing so easily.

So, this is a fundraiser, and it’s an annual event. Tell us how the fundraiser part works.

One hundred percent of all money raised from ticket sales will benefit this year’s beneficiary, Another Chance Animal Welfare League of Palo Cedro. It’s the only no-kill animal shelter in our area.

Q: Armando, I hope you don’t mind, but I find that when I’m describing you to someone who doesn’t know you, I always mention those huge metal sculptures you’ve built that are on your and Gary’s property, but they’re seen from I-5 north, just before the Twin View Boulevard exit. They are pretty spectacular. Care to expound a second about them?

Doni, thanks for spreading the word about my metal tree sculptures along I-5. The metal trees you are referring to are part of my work-in-progress. I have been working to turn our backyard into my personal sculpture garden. I started the installation about three years ago. These metal trees were the first of many art pieces I hope to install in my backyard. Right now there are about 12 metal trees standing tall in the sculpture garden. The shortest is 5-feet tall and the tallest stands at 28 feet. All the trees are painted red, except two that I painted copper that I call my twins.

Q: I’ve seen those trees up close, and they are absolutely spectacular. Back to the party on Sept. 22. Just for fun, if you can remember, what were the other themes of your and Gary’s past parties, and what other charities have been the recipients of your generosity?

Oh, Gee. I just turned 35 last month. Let’s see if I can remember … some of the themes for past events have been, “In the house of sin,”  ” Razors Edge,” ” The  Bird Cage,” “Steel Horizon,” – aka the metal trees – and this year’s “Silver Lotus.”
Some of the recipients have been the North State Symphony, American Cancer Society, International Vision Volunteers, Riverfront Playhouse, the production of a Cascade Christmas, Westside Performance Company …   OK, my age caught up with me because I’m drawing blanks to remember the others, not that the other organizations are less important.

Q: Happy belated birthday, Armando. Considering you are just 35, it’s pretty noteworthy to see how much of your adult life you’ve spent with Gary hosting these fundraisers to help so many north state organizations. What year is this one?

I’m happy and proud to say that this year our guests will be helping us celebrate our 10th year.

Q: I’ve had the pleasure to attend many of the events at your and Gary’s home, and I’m always in awe of the level of detail and planning that goes into each one.  The food, the decor, the music – you don’t overlook a thing. Obviously, you put untold hours of work into these parties, which begs the question. WHY do you and Gary hold these fundraisers?

Gary and I hold these fundraisers because we are able to, and we feel that we should help different organizations in our community when we can. Something we decided  several years ago is to try to keep it local, while in our early fundraising efforts we helped larger international organizations, but since then we feel that the money we raise would best serve our local community.

Q: What gave you the idea for the fundraiser in the first place?

Thanks for asking, Doni. Something I have not shared with many people is why we started this fundraiser. But to answer this question I think I need to share a bit about my background.

As a young teen I struggled with wanting to be an artist, I know many artists struggle trying to find their voice with with their art work, but for me it was a struggle with my father. I wanted to be an artist, and my dad strongly expressed that I should forget about being an artist.
The result was that many times as a young person I would destroy my art work and promise not to become an artist. I did that off and on for many years. I remember one of my younger bothers once told me that he liked my art work, and if I liked it, I should keep doing it.

At the time I don’t think my brother really knew what he was telling me, and to be honest, I don’t think I did, either.

Eleven years go that same brother passed away in a car incident, and a year later Gary and I started started our annual fundraiser in my brother’s memory.

Q: Thanks for sharing that, Armando. I had no idea. That’s quite a tribute to your brother.
Moving to another subject … you and Gary probably do parties better than almost anyone. But how in the world do even you two experts prepare for a party of this magnitude, in your private home, no less?

For many people I feel that day of the event is when all the work happens, and they are right. It’s a lot of running around like a crazy person; a lot of hard work the day of event. However we start weeks, if not months before the event on getting ready. We start by writing out lists on things that need to happen before the event, like picking up wine, cleaning the house, and what to wear. Which reminds me, to be honest, I still have no idea what I will be wearing this year.
But basically, about throwing the party, it’s just making sure to do whatever can be done beforehand. That will make it a bit easier come the big day.

Q: Assuming there are a few tickets left, how much do they cost, and where can people purchase them?

Tickets to “Silver Lotus” are $30 per person and should be purchased in advance at Enjoy the Store at 1475 Placer Street in downtown Redding.

Q: Thanks, Armando. I know you are beyond busy getting ready for this party. Anything else you’d like us to know?

I’d like to start by thanking you, Doni, and A News Cafe.com, for this opportunity to get the word out about this year’s event. I would also like to thank everyone in the community for all the support they have given me over the years.

I would also like to add that every year we donate an art piece to be raffled off the night of the event. This year up for grabs is one of my signed, framed Giclee prints on canvas. Tickets for that are $1 each or 6 for $ 5.  This is a great way for some of your readers who may not be able to make it to the event, but would like to make a donation to Another Chance Animal Welfare League at 9384 Deschutes Road  Palo Cedro, CA   96073. (Their phone number is  (530) 547-7387) Tickets are available at their thrift store, and you don’t have to be present to win.

For more information you can also visit my website. www.ArtByArmando.com Thank you, again, Doni.

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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