A creative effort to help

Fundraiser will benefit ailing local artist

Staff writerJune 17, 2011 

  • What: United for Robert benefit art show/auction for Robert King

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Extra Gravy, 135 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh

    Details: unitedforrobert.com

One of these days, maybe the recent health care law really will be implemented enough to cover the chronically under-insured. Until then, there will continue to be events like Saturday's United for Robert - a silent auction and art-show fundraiser for local artist Robert King.

A mixed-media artist who does everything from abstract painting to film-making, King is battling an inoperable brain tumor. He doesn't have private health insurance. He qualified for Medicaid, but his chemotherapy regimen includes strict dietary requirements that are expensive to meet. So King's friends in the local arts community have donated art to raise money. Some local businesses have chipped in with donations, too.

"You hear talk about Raleigh not having the cultural background to be exciting," says Sean Kernick, a graffiti artist who is helping organize Saturday's event. "What I've found is that not only is the culture robust here, the community feels more like a family that rallies together. Everybody has been incredibly generous. It's like a group of soldiers, an army-type feeling. If someone in the community is struggling, everybody stops to help as opposed to letting him fall. It feels good to be part of that."

King and his collaborator/wife Lisa have been touched at the outpouring from the community.

"Before this, it was hard for us to accept help from anybody," Lisa King says. "But with this going on, we've realized how much we do need help and support. It's been great to have people willing to do so much."

Kernick met Robert King through "3 the Hard Way," a documentary that King made of him and two other artists, Paul Friedrich and Georges Le-Chevallier (all three will have work for sale at Saturday's show). The film was a creative experiment, bringing together artists with different styles and backgrounds to collaborate on a series of paintings.

"Robert's a versatile artist, a painter as well as a filmmaker and video editor," Kernick says. "Painting is probably the best view into his core. Being a filmmaker, he seems most comfortable behind a camera and recoils a little when the focus is on him. In his paintings, you see a bold and strong character, a lot of things evolving. It's very dynamic."

King also does product photography for Jerry's Artarama, and he and his wife make wedding videos on the side. Even though the cancer treatments take a lot out of him, he has managed to keep working.

"It's been bad, and it's been good," King says. "I appreciate things more, and I'm grateful for the people in my life. I cannot believe all these people care so much. I just do whatever it takes to keep going. I'm just like everyone else, I want to live forever. But no matter what happens, I want to be an inspiration. I want to fight this."

david.menconi@newsobserver.com or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat or 919-829-4759

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