In a grassroots effort led by residents, a charity auction was quickly organized through social media then held at the Gulfport Casino on Friday, September 27 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. to benefit local artist and Army veteran Keith Stillwagon and his wife Michele.
Over 20 of his paintings were offered in both live and silent auctions including one donated by his wife that he had painted for her in 2012. Numerous painted rocks were also sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Each piece of artwork was signed.
Stillwagon is battling health issues that medical teams have yet to fully diagnose, though he was exposed to Agent Orange during his U.S. Army service in Korea. He served near the DMZ as a member of the infantry in the First Cavalry Division, 7th Regiment – General George A. Custer’s unit.
“My platoon specialized in night patrols. There were days we saw them and heard them spraying. I think what I did in the Army has come back to haunt me,” said Stillwagon, who is originally from Flint, Michigan. “With each decade, it gets a little worse and a little weirder. I keep getting sick.”
About 100 people attended the auctions and two live bands entertained: the Gulfport Swamp Opera, and T.C. Carr and the Bolts of Blue.
Larry Enlow of the Enroy Foundation, a local non-profit that supports the arts in Tampa Bay, and other locals offered the event in the Casino.
“Stillwagon is at least a regional treasure with his murals,” said Enlow.
About his paintings being put up for auction, Stillwagon said, “I’m going to miss a lot of them. But, I’ve spent a lot of time in intensive care units lately and I’ve been thinking, ‘What in God’s name am I going to leave my wife?’ I’m ready to say ‘good-bye’ to some of them. It’s time to get my work out into the public. I want other people to enjoy it.”
To find out more about Stillwagon’s paintings on canvas, murals and commission works, call 727-415-4935 or visit his online studio at KeithStillwagon.com.