The Buzz: Big Bend Cares’ 17th Annual Artopia Art Auction

Welcome to The Buzz, Tallahassee Magazine’s column created to share who’s where and what they’re doing. While we try to flit around with all of Tallahassee’s social butterflies, the Buzz can’t be everywhere. Send the skinny on your next soiree to


The BowStern marketing and communications company weighed anchor and moved and invited local VIPs to a grand opening event in May at their new headquarters in Summit East, near the intersection of Interstate 10 and U.S. 90. 

Guests were greeted by company President Tom Derzypolski and CEO Kelly Robertson.

Among those who stopped by at the end of the workday were Stephanie Derzypolsky, Greg Shelley, Hannah Chaires, Winston Howell, Becca Gilbert, Daryl Green, Kerri Bryan, Warren Jones, Dustin and Lucky Rivest, Tyler Huston, Michael Winn and Sean Singleton.

Enjoying the live music, refreshments and libations were Rick Oppenheim, Mayor Andrew and R Jai Gillum, Ben Graybar, Derek Goldfarb, Alison Vorhees, Heather Mitchell, JoAnne Suggs, Bill Moor and William Smith.


Listed in the 1954 phone book under “Hotels — Colored,” the Tookes Hotel in Frenchtown was one of the only accommodations available to black visitors to Tallahassee. It’s a designated as a National Historic Landmark, but the house at 412 W. Virginia St. has seen better days and now operates as a rooming house. Ron McCoy, grandson of Dorothy Nash Tookes, wants to breathe new life into his grandmother’s hotel, holding a kickoff fundraiser in June. Aiding him in the effort is Karen Robertson, a tiny dynamo from Ponte Vedra with a background in luxury interior and product design and a passion for recreating the Tookes Hotel as a bed and breakfast inn, museum and event venue. About 60 supporters gathered at the Four Points by Sheraton to hear about the planned $1.25 million renovation and view a small sampling of the estimated 5,000 artifacts Mrs. Tookes had collected while she was alive. The group, serenaded by the barbershop quartet The Rolling Tones, included Amos and Pat Bradford, Steven and Kelly Conner, Gerald Ensley and Sally Karioth, Kate Bruner, Mary Wellington and Carolyn Ryals, a close friend and neighbor of Dorothy Tookes.

Guests were gifted with tokens including handkerchiefs with the hotel’s turquoise “TH” logo and slices of pound cake made by McCoy using his grandmother’s recipe. A contingent from sponsor Nic’s Toggery was there, including Jim Schalow, Randy Martin, Michael Gavalas and Greg Bonner, as well as Julia Casseaux, Keith and Jennifer Deal, Genevieve English-Charles, Lynn Jones, Vaughn and Terry Samuels, Ivy Mitchell and Cicero Hartsfield.

Volunteers for the evening included Amy Wheeler, Spencer Marchesano and Sandy Floyd. Also enjoying the event were some of the hotel’s Frenchtown neighbors, including Richard Dusenbury, Ann Harris, Aron Myers, Keith Bowers, Valerie Scoon, Agatha Carter, Darryl Scott and Oscar and Shirley Woodberry.


On the evening of June 27, The Donald L. Tucker Civic Center was the venue for Tallahassee’s most colorful event of the year — Big Bend Cares’ 17th Annual Artopia Art Auction. The silent and live auctions featured art in media including painting, photography, sculpture, decorative items, jewelry and more. 

A record $75,000 was raised (a 20 percent increase over 2014) ticket sales and attendance were the highest in the history of the event and more corporate sponsors than ever stepped up to support Big Bend Cares and its mission to provide HIV/AIDS prevention services and compassionate care for those in our community affected by the disease.

Big Bend Cares Deputy Executive Director Charlie Adams said the event could not have been so successful without the support of the artists, sponsors, and attendees.

Donating artists, called “Artopians” by the nonprofit, included Tripp Farrell, Stuart Riordan, Richard Drake, Mr. Maki, Denise Boineau, Chiara Saldivar, Schelley Cassidy and Kayleigh Kirkpatrick.

While the artists opened their hearts, participants opened their wallets, purchasing a record $15,000 worth of art in the rousing live auction conducted by Malcolm Mason and the crew from Manor Auctions.

Corporate sponsors included Mail-Meds, AutoDataDirect, PSBI, the Southeastern Center for Infectious Diseases, BKJ Architecture, Bevis Funeral Home, Clear Health Alliance, Hopping Green & Sams, Centennial Bank, NAI Talcor, 7Hills Communications and Copyfax 2000.

At Artopia, Big Bend Cares also unveiled its new primary care medical facility, now under construction. The new center is located on South Monroe Street, directly across from Big Bend Cares’ current home. Bonnie Johnson, President of BKJ, Inc. Architects, said designing the primary care center was an important project for her firm.

Big Bend Cares CEO Rob Renzi said he’s delighted about the new facility. “It’s designed specifically to make it easy for clients to receive needed medical care in a single, convenient location,” he said.

Categories: Society