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14-year-old lends talent to charity tour
McKenna Konesky, 14, holds the two abstract oil paintings that she completed, with the help of her three neighbors. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The weather was foul but there was nary a frown on McKenna Konesky’s fresh-scrubbed face.

The 14-year-old was the youngest of the featured artists at the triple-charity art and garden tour held at the gated community of Villa Terracina in Manteca over the weekend. Two of her art works, though, were not shown with the half-dozen ones that were put on display. The unframed oils were projects that she collaborated on with three young neighbors. The sophomore at Jim Elliott Christian High School in Lodi said she came up with this activity idea to keep her young friends busy after school.

Both paintings were done sans palette or paint brush. “We just used our hands. This is my hand,” McKenna said, placing her right hand over the largest one in the art piece which looked more like an abstract than a child’s practice art work.

The budding artist, who has never taken any art classes or instruction, has been showing her art creations since the combined art and garden fund-raising tour at Villa Terracina was started six years ago. She got involved simply by virtue of the fact her father, Dave Konesky, has been co-hosting the annual event with Dale Gray.

Despite her youth and her lack of advanced training, McKenna has managed to hold her own against the other artists featured. Her paintings, in fact, have attracted quite a few collectors. Last year, she sold quite a few of them. But that was not her best season, she said at that time.

“One time, when the market was better, I made about $150. I sold 10 of my paintings,” she said without any trace of affectation.

“That was a long time ago – two years ago,” she added, her expression serious.

The story was different though on Saturday. Unseasonal rains in June forced the event organizers to hold the art exhibits indoors at the home of Konesky and Gray, and in the covered patios at the homes of John Hurney and wife Cheryl McFall and Nydia and Mark Victoria at Villa Terracina.

But the enthusiasm of the fewer-than-usual garden tour traffic this year more than made up for the damp weather. The rain also failed to steal Gray’s positive outlook. While he admitted that the guest traffic had been slow, “We’re glad it’s not pouring,” said the former Central Valley Realtors Association CEO-turned consultant.

In these difficult economic times, “whether you have two or three come out, we’re all fortunate to have what we have. I’m grateful for those who come out and those who work hard” to make the event as successful as possible, Gray said.

“Every dollar that’s donated helps somebody,” he added.

Visitors to the art and garden tour were asked to donate at least $15 for the admission, or more if they so desired. All proceeds this year are going to the San Joaquin AIDS Foundation, the American Cancer Society and Get Real Behind the Wheel, an organization that promotes responsible teen-age driving.

Ten percent of all art sales made during the tour also went to the three charities. Visitors had the choice as to which non-profit program they wanted to support.

The eight artists featured this year were: Jessie Wong (pottery), Scott Kowalski (raku/pottery), Barbara Dubell (jewelry), Steve Crawford (photography), Julie Lindemann (stained glass), Jeri Ross (glass art), Ronald Pratt (watercolor), and Dennis Merrill (photography) who was an “honorary contributor.”

All visitors were also served champagne from Mumm Napa Cellars while browsing through the art displays and walking through the gardens in the rain under their colored umbrellas.