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Arts Community Rallies Around Supporter Who Needs Heart Surgery

Exhibit 'Art For Open Heart' Sale To Help Tao LaBossiere


January 17, 2013

Tao LaBossiere has been a volunteer exhibit coordinator of ArtSpace Gallery on Asylum Avenue in Hartford since 1997, helping hundreds of artists get their works exhibited and, often, sold.

Now the city's arts community is rallying around LaBossiere. He was recently diagnosed as needing open-heart surgery. He has insurance but still needs to raise about $42,000. A weeklong exhibit titled "Art for the Open Heart" will open on Saturday, Feb. 9, with a portion of the proceeds from sales of the artwork going to the Tao LaBossiere Open Heart Fund. Most will donate 20 percent; others will choose to donate more.

"I have catastrophic insurance," he said. "I pay a nominal monthly premium. I have to pay the first $12,000 of annual expenses. ... After the deductible, the insurance pays 70 percent of the bills up to $100,000. I believe it covers everything thereafter."

LaBossiere chose that type of policy because it was the least expensive insurance setup he could find. "I chose what I was able to pay reliably. I don't work for a company myself," said LaBossiere. An artist's income is by nature sporadic, so a more expensive policy would not have been possible, he said.

In the week or so since the event was announced, 204 local artists and art supporters have jumped on the "Art for the Open Heart" bandwagon, not just to exhibit, but also to support the event. At the opening reception, Jerry's Artarama in West Hartford will raffle off gift certificates, as will at least one local restaurant, Salute in downtown Hartford, and a yoga studio. Two other Hartford restaurants, Fire & Spice and Ginza, will donate food to the event. Local artist Jon Eastman will provide DJ services, and the stars of the West Hartford cable-access show "Two Guys and a Lot of Wine" will bring wine. A masseuse will give chair massages for $1 per minute.

Among the artists who will exhibit are sculptor Craig Frederick, painter Nina Salazar, graphic designer Rachel Sclare, surrealist painter Clinton Deckert, jazz-themed painter Andres Chapparo, sculptor Suzan Shutan, collagist Ashleigh Kay, photographer Chion Wolf, Oil Drum Art founder Jack Lardis and painter HL Groen.

"When I think about it it brings tears to my eyes," said LaBossiere's wife, Amy, also an artist. "Everybody's pulling together to help Tao."

LaBossiere said that he went for a routine physical early last year, during which he had an EKG. His primary care physician noticed a heart murmur. He told LaBossiere to follow up with a cardiologist, but LaBossiere said the doctor did not believe the murmur was too serious yet. So LaBossiere took his time following up. "I have that traditional male avoidance tendency," he said.

The cardiologist gave him another EKG and an echocardiogram. In the nine months he waited, the moderately leaky aortic valve had expanded by 2 millimeters, becoming a severely leaky valve.

The surgery he must have is a valve replacement, using either a mechanical valve or a valve from a cow or a pig. LaBossiere hopes it will not be the mechanical one.

"That would require blood thinners for the rest of my life," he said. "I really would rather not have that." His pre-surgical cardiac catheterization took place at Hartford Hospital on Jan. 16.

Amy LaBossiere said after hearing the diagnosis, she and LaBossiere "were stressing about it and freaking out about it, wondering what to do to raise funds." She said she came up with the idea for the exhibit to combine what they love with what they need. "We produce art shows and love to support artists," she said. "That was what we needed to do to raise funds."

LaBossiere's work can be seen around the city in a variety of places, including his steel dog sculptures, Frida and Fido, at City Hall until Friday, Jan. 25; his giant mural of a goldfish tank on the third floor of the Hartford Public Library; and his grapevine silhouettes in the interior of the restaurant Salute.

ART FOR THE OPEN HEART will open at ArtSpace, 555 Asylum Ave. in Hartford, on Saturday, Feb. 9, with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission is $10 donation at the door. Wine will be provided, but visitors can bring hors d'ouevres to share. It will run through Friday, Feb. 15, with gallery hours by appointment only (contact Amy LaBossiere at 860-543-3244). Artists who want to participate may drop off their art on Monday, Feb. 4, or Tuesday, Feb. 5, between 5 and 7 p.m., or by appointment (contact Amy LaBossiere). To show a piece, a donation of $20 is required. There is no number of pieces an artist may submit, but there is a size limit, 4 feet in any direction. Diptychs and triptychs count as individual pieces. First come, first served until the gallery is full. To donate directly in lieu of participation, send a check to TD Bank, c/o Tao LaBossiere Open Heart Fund203 Trumbull St., Hartford, CT 06103.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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