Brewton boy inspires ‘Funds for Fishes’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The dining room in Emmie and Yancy Jernigan’s house is turning into something of an art gallery, with paintings and even a sculpture laid on the table and leaning against chairs and walls.

Prominent among the works are several paintings of sea life by 9-year-old Lyon Jernigan, whose love for the coast and desire to do something in the wake of the oil spill inspired a family project: the Funds for Fishes art auction to benefit the Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory Foundation.

“I saw that the oil was getting on the birds and sea turtles,” Lyon said. “Some of the animals are almost extinct already, and if we don’t do something, they will all be gone. It made me sad to think about it, and I was upset.”

Emmie Jernigan said her son saw an article in a magazine about a similar fundraising effort for the coast spearheaded by a young girl. “He said, ‘I could do something like that,’” she recalled.

“I told him we could most certainly do something, so we have come up with something that all ages can do,” Emmie said.

Though young, Lyon is a talented artist — he has participated in several camps and taken lessons from Fairhope artist Bill Harrison — and he decided to donate several fish paintings for the art auction, which will be held at The Hourglass on Aug. 19. Harrison has also donated a painting.

The idea has, as Emmie said, “gone viral.” Email messages and Facebook postings have spread across the country, and now the Jernigans are receiving artwork from around the country, including a wire fish sculpture from a 16-year-old girl in Arizona and photos of shells from North Carolina.

Emmie said the family has been surprised by the response — but she believes people simply want to try to help.

“This came from people’s hearts,” she said. “Sometimes we think that we can’t contribute, but we can. We are thrilled that people want to help and make a difference. We have some good artists that are willing to help make this fundraiser a success.”

The silent auction will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19, at The Hourglass. Co-owner Becki Breckenridge said she has also been surprised by the response to the show.

“We already have several artists who have submitted their work,” Breckenridge said.”It’s not just paintings that will be on display. We have photography, hand-made jewelry and pottery, wood carvers and wood crafters, too. I think we can say that there will be plenty of artists there. We already have 20-30 submissions and I know there will be lots more coming.”

Emmie said several local artists have already pledged their support, and she is hoping more will take part.

“We have a lot of local artists in this area and if each one gives a piece of their artwork, along with others we have contacted, we will have a good selection on display,” Emmie said. “Lyon has been painting some scenes and his work will also be on display.”

Emmie Jernigan said she hopes that many people will attend the show. In addition to the auction, Rosie McGowin of the group Save Our Shores will be selling T-shirts and other paraphernalia to benefit the coast.

“We want people to come and bid and enjoy the night,” Emmie said. “The art is only as good as the bidders.”