Irwin Gallery is hosting a star-themed art auction for a suicide prevention center

Tracy Alaia believes that people have something in common with the stars – each one, human or celestial, is unique and beautiful in its own way.

That idea suggested the theme for a charity event she hosted at her downtown Irvine business, Feathers Artist Market and Gifts.

Alaia is inviting people to make star-themed paintings to be auctioned off in September, with proceeds going to Come, Talk Inc., an Irvine-based nonprofit that provides free resources for people affected by suicide.

“I’m always trying to do things to give back to the community and I love helping local nonprofits,” Alaia said. “Mental health resources are so valuable, especially right now.”

Come, Talk Inc. was founded in April 2021 by Irwin resident Amanda Morrison as a safe place and resource center for people affected by all aspects of suicide, including those who have considered or attempted suicide, people who are concerned about a loved one and people who know someone who has considered, attempted, or died by suicide.

The organization has a location at the Norwin Chamber of Commerce office at 321 Main St., Irwin.

Morrison said when he left work at the end of 2020, “I wanted to do something meaningful and useful for the community. This idea just came to me.”

Suicide was a subject close to her heart. A cousin and high school friend had both died by suicide, and an aunt had survived an attempt but later died of cancer.

“My aunt had told me that if she just had someone to talk to — a neutral party, not family or friends — she wouldn’t have made the attempt,” Morrison said. “I’ve read so many case studies that say the same thing. People just need someone to talk to.”

Come, Talk Inc. provides one-on-one center visits, print and electronic support materials, names of local advisors, small group meetings, support groups, events with guest speakers, self-help classes and other community outreach programs.

“It’s very important to me that everything is free,” Morrison said. “I don’t want price to be a barrier for anyone who needs help.” We rely on sponsorships, grants and fundraising like what Tracy does.”

The painting activity is “a fun way to raise funds,” said Morrison, who contributed a painting of the constellation Capricornus in memory of her aunt.

Anyone interested in making a painting for the auction can stop by Feathers at 104 4th St. to pick up a canvas for $3. Participants can paint on site for a $3 studio fee or take the canvas home to finish and return by August 30.

Canvases vary in size, but most are 8 by 8 inches or 11 by 14 inches.

Artists of all skill levels and ages are welcome to participate, said Alaia, who noted that two siblings, ages 2 and 4, contributed glitter-covered creations.

The paintings will be hung in the Feathers Gallery and visitors will be able to bid on them in September and during the store’s fifth anniversary celebration on October 1. Bids can be made in any amount.

Alaia, who holds similar auctions for local nonprofits once or twice a year, said it’s unusual for a piece to go unsold. She once had leftovers that were then donated to a local nursing facility.

The benefits of such an event go beyond simply supporting the featured nonprofit.

“I like being a part of bringing people together,” she said. “One boy said he loved being able to do something small to help others.”

Giving people a creative outlet can also have a long-lasting effect.

“I give people an idea to start and they can be as creative as they want,” Alaia said. “Kids especially feel like real artists when they see their work displayed on the wall in a real gallery.”

Aspiring artists can stop by Feathers from 10:30am to 4pm Monday-Tuesday and Saturday, 10:30am to 7pm Wednesday-Friday or 11am to 3pm on Sundays. For more information, call 412-930-1954 or visit

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Shirley can be reached by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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