Stacy Rae Gross's mother, husband use her works to raise money for charitable causes
June 3, 2009 4:00 AM
Artist Stacy Rae Gross in Italy, 2003.
"The White Dress" is one of Stacy Rae Gross' paintings.
"Long Way Out is one of Stacy Rae Gross' paintings.
By Sally Kalson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Stacy Rae Gross' career as an artist was just taking off when she died last February at age 30 of complications from Hodgkins lymphoma.
The Carnegie Mellon University graduate, a graphic designer at the school's Software Engineering Institute, had shown her acrylic paintings and watercolors in several galleries and had perfected her flower-painting technique when she lost her eyesight and had to stop painting.
Her husband, Ralph Gross, and her mother, Wanda Michael, wanted to create something that would help Stacy live on while benefiting others.
They established the Stacy Rae Gross Memorial Research Fund at CMU to provide grants for end-of-year projects by two art students. Dr. Gross funded the scholarship with his wife's life insurance money. The first grants of $400 to $500 will be given next spring.
They also founded Stacy's Helping Hands, a nonprofit charity that sells prints of her artwork -- figures, florals and other subjects. All proceeds benefit West Penn Manor, a 12-apartment facility near West Penn Hospital where out-of-town transplant patients and their families can live for as long as necessary. No rent is charged, but residents are asked for a donation.
"Stacy had two stem cell transplants," said her mom. "She lived in Pittsburgh so we never had to take advantage of West Penn Manor, but we were so glad it was here for other people who need it."
The artwork can be viewed at www.stacyshelpinghands.org. Prints range from $20 to $55; a box of six notecards is $15. Dr. Gross, a computer scientist at HyperActive Technologies, manages the Web site. Ms. Michael fills the orders from her home in Gaithersburg, Md. The goal is to raise enough money to renovate and furnish two apartments, including computers.
"It's a great way to make her art accessible to other people and also raise money to help other cancer patients in the same circumstances," Dr. Gross said.
Ms. Michael, human resources director for a government contractor, is covering all mailing costs herself "for as long as I can afford it," she said, so that all the income goes to the charity.
Beverly Beisgen, director of operations for West Penn Hospital Foundation, said Stacy's family let the foundation use her works in a fundraising appeal aimed at renovating the entire West Penn Manor building, which needs an elevator and an all-around update.
"We did really well with the campaign," she said. "She was such a beautiful young woman. It's very special having her mom and husband involved. You can tell it's therapeutic for them to make something positive out of such a tragic situation."
During a recent visit, Ms. Michael brought framed prints of her daughter's work to hang in each apartment and a common area.
"It makes me feel good to look at her art," she said. "I can hear her talking about it. She'd be thrilled to know people are seeing her work."