La Peña has heart… several of them

selena heartAt the risk of recalling press releases for their traditionally blind enthusiasm towards recurring happenstances that are, truthfully, lacking in angle and scoop, I’ll go there: Saturday’s “Toma Mi Corazon” is a vital community staple, an admirable cause and should—you know—totally be checked out.

“Corazon” is an annual silent auction fundraiser held in La Peña’s downtown Congress gallery space. This year’s event takes place on Saturday, Feb. 6. We’re talking generous hosts, live music, refreshments and art. Now in its 18th year, the marquee gathering from the tax-exempt nonprofit is just as vibrant as always. It’s a noble endeavor; just ask La Peña’s artistic director, David Gutierrez.

“La Peña is an interdisciplinary cultural and educational organization dedicated to the enhancement of art in all its forms,” Gutierrez said, “[We] support artistic development, provide exposure to emerging local visual artists, musicians, poets and other performing artists, and offer Austin residents the full spectrum of traditional and contemporary Latino art.”

But, as Vince Young would charmingly project in his Houston accent, Saturday is about the kids. In short, La Peña invites all comers (artists, children, patrons) to beautify wooden hearts; they’re auctioned off, and all proceeds filter back towards La Peña’s educational, arts-focused programming. The gallery itself is trendy, welcoming and familiar. In terms of hearts, artists collaborate, sure, but more satisfying are the groups of hearts from elementary schools done as class projects. And again, these gestures are paid forward.

“We often go into the community to give people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to have their work displayed in a gallery setting. For example, every year we have an exhibit of children’s artwork from Sanchez Elementary,” Gutierrez said, “Also, this past December we exhibited the art of senior citizens from area nursing homes and senior activity centers. The children and seniors wouldn’t normally have opportunities like that and it often gives them the encouragement to continue doing art.”

If nothing else, attending “Corazon” will 100 percent get you out of seeing that insufferable coming attraction “Valentine’s Day” that not only makes “Love Actually” seem like “Annie Hall” but is being marketed in homophobic fashion as Bradley Cooper’s character is gay, yet he’s shown in trailers flirting with stewardesses and lovingly gazing at Julia Roberts. On a generally related note, Valentine’s Day (the holiday) is 100 percent a fabricated, corporate cash grab, but what’s vastly more annoying are people that decry the day on that basis because—bottom line, bro—the holiday begets romance.

obama heartAnd more than a windfall for romance, “Toma Mi Corazon” is an invaluable, cheap date proposition perfectly timed to remove burden of Valentine’s Day a week later, as thoughtful notion of engaging in this affair, just outta the blue, absolves duty of using the Hallmark holiday as a vehicle for projecting sweetness/thoughtfulness. The bubbling, pending pressure goes away and opens up next weekend for more straightforward, comfortable, direct pleasures.

The cause is righteous, the music joyfully ethnic, the art sincere and enduring, the timing seasonal and romantic. But remember, it’s about the kids.

All photos taken by Mari Hernandez for Austin Vida at last year’s “Toma Mi Corazon.” This year’s event takes place on Sat., Feb. 6.