Persad Center announces Art for Change pilot program and fundraising gala

Persad Center will expand its mission as an LGBTQ health and wellness organization to support artists with a new pilot program, announced ahead of its annual fundraising gala.

Persad launched its Art for Change program, described in a press release as "one of the region's most significant art auctions." Proceeds from the event will support the Lawrenceville-based center's mission of "providing mental health services to the LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV/AIDS."

Unlike previous years, a new pilot program will, as Persad CEO Marty Healey puts it, "enable all artists participating in the gallery to receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their work.” The program will feature a number of galleries curated by local artists and art organizations, as well as an auction selling donated work. Artists interested in donating to the auction can now submit pieces through an online form.


The fundraising gala and art auction will take place Fri., Sept. 9 at Stage AE on the North Side.

“The positive connection between art and mental health is strong and we know that creating art, whether it’s sculpting, painting, or drawing, are known to lower stress levels and promote mental calmness," says Healey, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has "brought upon a significant economic setback for the artist community, and as the leading LGBTQ+ mental health organization in the region."

Founded in 1972, Persad is touted as the second-oldest LGBTQ mental health agency in the U.S., offering a variety of mental health and social support services for youth and senior LGBTQ populations in the region.

The program marks a positive step for an organization that has seen its share of controversies over the last few years. Chief among the complaints is Persad's association with Healey and his Delta Foundation, which previously ran the city's annual Pride events. In August 2020, activists demonstrated outside Healey's private South Side business to protest Delta for a number of alleged abuses, including discriminating against and shutting out the Black trans community and not being open about what happened to funds meant for the canceled 2020 Pittsburgh Pride event.


Tensions heightened when it was revealed that Delta filed to trademark the term “Pittsburgh Pride” and “Pittsburgh PrideFest” after announcing that it would dissolve. As reported by Pittsburgh City Paper in November 2021, the move outraged local LGBTQ groups, who even protested outside of Persad's offices, and led many to question the future of the city's annual Pride festivities.

Curating the Art for Change galleries are Judy Barie, Madeline Gent, and Steve Mendelson, as well as the Garfield gallery Boom Concepts and Contemporary Craft in Lawrenceville. The galleries are described as including a mix of artists and mediums selected to "weave together a story that best represents their own aesthetic experience."

In addition to curating their own galleries, the participating artists and organizations, led by Art for Change committee chair, Mia Tarducci, will also select 50 to 75 donated pieces that will be juried into the gallery section of the show.

While the auction will cover services offered by Persad, those who donated art will receive 20% of sales from the donated works, as well as one complimentary ticket to the Art for Change gala and a discount code for 50% off the purchase of a second ticket.

“We are excited about our pilot program, as it enables us to give back and support the artist community, many of whom have supported Art for Change for the past 34 years,” says Healey. “Last year’s event was wonderfully successful, and we are excited to share these changes, which we believe will help streamline the process and make this year’s event even more exciting.”

Persad Center Art for Change 2022. 6:30-11 p.m. 5 p.m. for VIP ticketholders. Fri., Sept. 9. Stage AE. 400 N. Shore Drive, North Side. $150-375. persadartforchange.com