Brent Yezek adores his grandfather.
Separated by 800 miles, Yezek, who lives in Austin, Texas, cherished the spare moments he got with the 90-year-old who lives in an assisted living facility in Manly, Iowa. So when Brent went to visit the man they call Buster a few years ago, he was saddened to see his grandfather suffering the affects of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Buster’s struggles with the debilitating affects of the disease that can cause dementia and a loss of brain function inspired Yezek to form Art Over Alzheimer’s, a fundraising event he hopes can raise awareness and money to combat the disease.
“I don’t get to see him (Buster) a whole lot so I wanted to do something in his honor,” Yezek said. “I wanted to use my artistic talents to raise money and awareness with this event.”
The first of what Yezek hopes will be annual Art Over Alzheimer’s event was May 10 in Austin. Yezek spent a year planning and coordinating the event, lining up sponsors and donors. As part of the fundraiser, Yezek sold 10 of his paintings. It took Yezek eight months to produce the paintings he later auctioned off.
The 20-inch by 30-inch oil pastel, Austin inspired paintings depict the city’s rich architectural and cultural history.
More than 125 people attended the event that included food, drinks and a D.J. At the end of the night, Yezek had raised more than $6,000 with 100 percent going to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Yezek is a 1996 Glenwood graduate. His parents, David and Janet, who attended the Art Over Alzheimer’s event, still live in Glenwood. After high school, Yezek earned dual degrees in landscape architecture and community planning at Iowa State before moving to Austin in 2004. While he’s been painting most of his life, he got serious about his craft about five years ago, selling pieces here and there. He’s recently got into painting for philanthropic causes, including St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and several local family-assistance groups.
Yezek said his artwork is inspired by his day job as a landscape architect but mostly, he said, he just loves to paint what he sees around him.
“I think a lot of my work is derived from my training in landscape architecture because a lot of them are landscapes or cityscapes,” Yezek said. “But I’ll paint whatever. People will have me do commissions that are sort of nostalgic to them or they’ll often times have me paint a homestead or a barn that runs in their family or pets or family members. I’m really all over the board but most are landscapes.”
Some of Yezek’s work hangs in Vine Street Cellars Winery and the Keg Creek Brewery in Glenwood.
Yezek hopes to form Art Over Alzheimer’s into an annual event with it’s own non-profit foundation some day.
“We got some great support from local businesses that donated items for the auction and the Alzheimer’s association down here go involved and lent their support,” he said. “The great thing about starting this is meeting with people along the way that have been affected with family members or friends that have had Alzheimer’s. Hearing the stories is very touching and it inspires me even more with Art Over Alzheimer’s.”