Spotlight on Patrick Walsh

Patrick Walsh portraitThere is perhaps no name as synonymous with Art for AIDS as Patrick Walsh, even though you might not realize it. Walsh is most famous for his voice and his wit and, more prosaically, his amazing time management skills as an auctioneer. All of this ensures that when the live auction begins, at the knock of Walsh’s gavel, it will end on time with everyone feeling entertained and, even if they dropped a bundle at Walsh’s cajoling, they’ll have felt it was all worth it.

Walsh’s involvement with the event dates back to its genesis in 1996, when he was recruited by local artist Ellen Sherrod and her colleagues to serve as an organizer and auctioneer. At the time working for leading auction house Butterfield & Butterfield (now Bonhams), and having previously managed the Stud Bar, Walsh’s unique skill set and community connections caught the attention of Sherrod’s team. They surreptitiously observed him working his magic at an East Bay auction to end Alzheimer’s Disease, liked what they saw, and asked him to join their cause.

Living through the San Francisco AIDS epidemic, Walsh needed no convincing and welcomed the opportunity to “help out many friends in the artist community that were sick and dying from AIDS.” Over the next 20 years, Walsh’s drive to serve the community grew. He served for several years on AHP’s Community Advisory Board, and has continued to promote the cause of HIV care and prevention, as well as ART for AIDS, itself, through his numerous connections with corporate sponsors.

In 1997, Walsh shifted his career to oncological pharmaceutical marketing, but that did not stop him from continuing to donate his time and skills to numerous health care charity auctions. Walsh remains a champion booster: It’s “wonderful to be surrounded by a great group of people so dedicated to their cause.”

Since its inception, Art for AIDS has flourished, and Walsh has watched it grow from a local community event to a premier event. If in the beginning, we had to “literally bang on doors” to get artists to donate their work, that’s emphatically no longer true. Now, Walsh reports, we have enough art to run robust live and silent auctions. “I swell with pride every time I walk through the door to the event,” Walsh says. “I think about every person that this organization has helped: every soul that we have lost, every soul that we have saved.” We do too, and we know that it is only because of Walsh’s significant contributions of expertise, excellence, and ebullience that the auction is something that deserves pride.