Max Drew was portioning out turkey one day at the Center City sandwich shop Middle Child when he came up with the idea for a fundraiser for the National Independent Venue Association. “We hadn’t had a Nite Lunch dinner in a while,” Drew says of Middle Child’s lunch-for-dinner initiatives that raised funds for community organizations like Proyecto Tamal. “All of those are very collaborative, but I’m not a chef, so I couldn’t come up with a menu.” Instead, he thought of what he refers to as the “Middle Child extended universe,” in which many pals and customers are visual artists. Turkey in hand and dreaming, a “lunch-themed art auction popped into my head,” he says.
Within a month, Drew and Sadie Pennington, Middle Child’s other front of house staff member, had conceptualized “Gallerytessen,” a silent auction of lunch-themed art that will take place from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. this Friday, February 19. The auction will benefit NIVA’s Save Our Stages efforts to get much-needed funds to closed independent venues, a choice the Middle Child staff made when they realized how much they missed dancing until 3 a.m. at places like the Dolphin. “Fiddling with those big janky doors at Boot & Saddle is something we’ll never get to do again,” Drew says, mourning the South Philly venue that closed in November. They didn’t want to see the rest of their favorite music venues succumb to the same fate.
So Drew and Pennington reached out to their community, asking artists they knew to make and donate any kind of art they wanted, as long as it was somehow inspired by food. The responses were legion.
From ceramics to paintings to custom t-shirts to tote bags, the auction will feature a little bit of everything. One piece is a ceramic dish made with ashes from BBQ spot Fette Sau. Another is a miniature Middle Child shopping bag stuffed with even smaller Middle Child shopping bags. There will even be some work donated by one of Middle Child’s regulars, Kieran Sutton, who had been coming to the shop for lunch once a week. “I started following him on Instagram a while ago and saw that he makes shag rugs in his spare time,” Drew recalls. “So I asked him, ‘Hey do you have any interest in doing this for us?’” The result: a psychedelic shag rug in the shape of a Middle Child potato chip bag.
The auction will take place virtually on the site Galabid, and prices for the pieces will start at $25. Interested bidders can make an account and begin bidding at 8 p.m. on Friday, and proceeds minus the cost of administrative fees will go to NIVA.
For some strange and inexplicable reason, are you not in the market for lunch-themed artwork right now? Middle Child friend Jenna LeCours designed a custom T-shirt featuring all the participating artists for the fundraiser that will be available as a memento. And in a perfect tribute to the essence of the cause, it’s designed to look just like a tour T-shirt.