By Peter Ganovsky, news correspondent
The Boston-based rock band Jack Romanov hosted a fundraising event last Friday for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization dedicated to the protection of citizen rights.
The benefit, which took place in the basement of the Elks Lodge in Cambridge, showcased a series of musical performances and visual artwork. More than 100 people attended the event. Donations made by attendees combined with proceeds from the sale of artists’ work totaled more than $1,000 to be donated to the ACLU.
Jack Romanov assembled a team of people to take part in the benefit by reaching out to basement-show frequenters and friends of band members. Nico Renzulli, drummer of Jack Romanov and co-organizer of the benefit, said there were many reasons to organize the event, but cited politics as a primary factor.
“Post-incident, aka the election, everyone felt a need to contribute to those who are less fortunate than us,” Renzulli said. “I think the arts get more visceral and angry the more intense the politics get in either direction because if one side is winning like it is now, the other side will go hard.”
Wendy Eisenberg, a Boston-based jazz, rock and improv artist, and one of many musical talents to perform at the benefit, said it was part of an ever-growing number of events organized to help those who will be most affected by President Donald J. Trump’s administration.
“You’d have to be an idiot not to realize that the world is changing,” Eisenberg said. “Artists have this unique opportunity typically outside of the central economic landscape to say things about how people they know and don’t know are being affected by worldwide changes.”
“Par for the course,” a short film produced by Open Casket Productions featuring the music of Jack Romanov, premiered early in the night. Visual artists showcased sketches, paintings, photographs and other works around the venue, including some projects made by members of Feminist Fiber Art (FFA), a traveling art exhibit founded, organized and curated by Iris Nectar. Nectar became involved with the charity event through Esteban Cajigas, a member of Jack Romanov, who invited FFA to join the project over Facebook.
“FFA was immediately attracted to the idea of this show because we strongly believe in benefit shows and the power of the DIY community to come together and work toward making the world a better place,” Nectar said in an e-mail to The News.
Quinn Viens, a Boston artist whose collages and sketchwork were showcased at Friday’s benefit, said she found it difficult to put her thoughts into art.
“It was very stressful,” Viens said. “It was lot of just sitting myself down for days and making pieces non-stop and throwing a bunch away and keeping a bunch and just figuring out what I thought was a good representation of myself and what I thought would be more themed toward an ACLU benefit. I focused a lot on femininity and sexuality.”
Nick Aikens, lead vocalist and pianist of Jack Romanov, said the event was originally meant to be a release party for Jack Romanov’s third album “JR3,” but turned into something bigger following shared frustration toward the current political climate.
“I’m a member of the LGBT community,” Aikens said. “Our bassist is a first-generation immigrant – his parents were born in Colombia. It’s just something we can all agree on.”
Renzulli and Aikens said the personal connections Jack Romanov had to the problems that the ACLU faces head on every day were the main reasons the group decided to host the benefit. They also said they were interested in continuing to raise money and awareness for organizations like ACLU and in using their platform for important causes.
“By connecting with an artist, they’re connecting with an entire person who has fears and concerns that might be different from theirs,” Eisenberg said. “I think that’s what’s important – a community that supports each other, bound together by art.”
Photo by Dylan Shen