Last summer SCAD professor Sherran Deems was hiking in the mountains - a fond memory that seems much farther in the past than the handful of months between that time and the present.
A week before Christmas, Deems, who'd been dealing with some chronic pains, discovered she had a malignant tumor pressing against her sciatic nerve, and aggressive treatments of chemotherapy and radiation have left her walking with a cane and unable to drive a car.
For nearly a decade, Deems has taught Foundations classes at SCAD, preparing young students for the rigors of the art world, but nothing could have prepared her for the curveball life threw at her.
Suddenly, "the little things we take for granted," - walking the dog, cooking, housekeeping and driving - all became insurmountable challenges, and despite having health insurance, the expenses of things that weren't covered began to pile up once treatments left her too ill to continue teaching.
In the wake of her diagnosis, an effort was mounted by a former-student-turned-colleague, Gena Robbins, to help support Deems. Over the past several weeks, Robbins has recruited heavily for "Team Sherry," enlisting artists, professors, models and community members.
"When it's one of your own, you want to take care of them," Robbins explains, who also lost her father to cancer several years ago.
Using an online calendar, the group has coordinated their efforts to support Deems through a very difficult time, arranging rides for her to and from treatment, helping her around the house and other tasks.
This week, online bidding began for works that will be auctioned off at an event on March 13 at the Chroma Gallery, with all of the proceeds benefitting Deems and her fight against cancer.
"I'm just amazed with how phenomenally generous everyone has been," Deems says over the phone last week while discussing the outpouring of support she's received. "I'm overwhelmed by it."
The auction, aptly titled "For Sherry," will feature works from an impressive list of local artists and notable SCAD alums, including Marcus Kenney, Michael Scoggins and many others.
"If anyone wants great art for not much money, this is the place," says Robbins.
The auction catalog is available online, and bidding will start there, before finishing with a silent auction during the show at Chroma. There will also be a raffle for items donated by a variety of local businesses.
Donations of art, raffle items and money can be made through March 11 via the website of the artists' collective Thirteen: www.savannahartistgroup.org/sherrandeems
Although the treatments and medication often leave her feeling weakened, Deems is dedicated to making it to the event, even if she can't stay for the duration.
"I have to say thank you," she says. "But how do you say thank you?"
"For Sherry" Benefit Auction and Raffle
When: March 13, 3-6:30 p.m.
Where: Chroma Gallery, 31 Barnard St.
Cost: Free and open to the public
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