While most people in Albuquerque spent their Valentine’s Day with a special someone — or looking for a special someone — the patrons at ArtBar focused on raising money for a local nonprofit.

The “Art is Love” event paired pieces of artwork with local singles and then auctioned the sets off to raise money for the New Mexico AIDS Society, said ArtBar co-founder Julia Mandeville.

Participants could bid on the art and have someone to hang out with for the evening, or bid on the date and have a nice piece of art to go with it.

“Each piece of artwork is paired with a hot single from the organization, creating quite the enticing package,” she said. “Not to mention that 100 percent of the auction proceeds go to supporting NMAS.”

The event was designed to be different from what is normally offered on Valentine’s Day in hopes that more members of the private club would attend the event, said organizer Carlos Contreras.

Members and non-members responded well, and the event raised $2,700 for NMAS, said ArtBar co-founder Shastyn Friedman.
“It’s nice to have such a warm and giving response to our event,” she said.

Hakim Bellamy, Albuquerque’s first poet laureate, said he was very excited to participate in the auction. As part of a bidding package, members could bid on an evening with him and take home a piece by local artist Patrick Burnham, also known as CloudFace.

“I was asked by anonymous members of the ArtBar establishment who happened to be attractive ladies,” Bellamy said. “I was very excited when I first agreed, then started to have some reservations about it as the day got closer.”

Bellamy’s nervousness was unwarranted. He and the artwork he was paired with netted $225 in the auction, he said.

“What’s cool about it is everything is interdisciplinary or intersectional,” he said. “What I really like about what we did was that it’s an art event for Valentine’s Day and it intersected it with NMAS. People kind of forget that (AIDS is) still a deadly virus present in today’s society. It was cool to get that information out there in a positive way.”

The NMAS offers a variety of services to people living with HIV or AIDS, including case management, food bank access, assisted living and emotional support, according to The society also offers free condoms and HIV testing.

The New Mexico AIDS Services mission statement says the organization is committed to “treating the whole person.”

Skye Morris-Devore, a co-founder of ArtBar, said the public should expect more events like this from ArtBar because fundraising for local nonprofits is part of the bar’s core mission. She said they wanted to give members the opportunity not just to support the arts, but to actually get involved.

“Instead of being a bar with owners or shareholders, we give all of our money beyond operating costs to nonprofit arts organizations,” Devore said.

The 6-month-old bar has gained more than 900 members already, which shows it is possible for ArtBar to have a very positive impact on local organizations, Devore said.