It was only two months ago that a couple of local musicians tossed around the idea of a benefit event for a friend who’s been doing battle with chronic illness for more than a decade.  As 86 Gallery owner and Tall Tales drummer Brook Dalton tells it, John Crerar (T.F.W.) initially suggested it while the two were hanging out at Dalton’s house.  Dalton’s response was immediate and unequivocal: “It was like a motor skill — there was no need to weigh options or consider consequences, it’s just what you do.”

That attitude of stepping up is proving to be prevalent in Ventura’s arts scene and its six degrees of reach. By the time an announcement was made, and bands began to sign on and artists started dropping off art work, word began to spread like brush fire during a drought. Within a week, VCReporter received numerous e-mail and Facebook requests for coverage of the event. By press time, the benefit has grown to include 10-plus bands, an enviable cache of contemporary art (see sidebar), a craft fair and raffle prizes.

So what exactly is it about Gavin Peters that’s eliciting such big love? Peters, who lives in Ojai and was once a key figure at Skate Street skate park before it closed, is what Dalton describes as an “integral part of Ventura’s skateboarding and art scenes.” Sometime in 1997, a very fit and vibrant Peters began experiencing vision problems. Soon his muscle coordination began to suffer, and he would fall for no apparent reason. He bought a cane. He became fatigued and symptoms progressed, but doctors were at a loss to determine what was ailing him. Finally, in 2003, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and then, in 2005, a costly blood test revealed Lyme disease, an infectious bacterial disease that is spread by ticks. There has been some controversy over Lyme diagnoses in the West, as it’s been thought to be limited to a type of tick that lives in the northeast U.S. But, as an increasing number of people in this neck of the woods are testing positive, that theory is losing ground.

Before Peters received the diagnosis, doctors attempted to treat his MS with immuno-suppressive drugs, which unfortunately allowed the Lyme bacteria to flourish in his weakened body. “It’s like I fell into a deep hole — it will take a while to get out of it,” he says.

The bad news is that Peters is now confined to a wheelchair, unable to work. It’s been a long while since he rode a skateboard. The good news is that he has an uncrushable spirit, an unstoppable support network and a potential cure.

Having tried the spectrum of alternative treatments, from bee sting therapy and rife machine therapy to 37 sessions in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, stem cell therapy is the only thing that’s made a difference. The only problem is, he must travel to India to receive it. At $20,000 per visit and another $5,000 for travel and associated expenses, it’s a financially daunting proposition. But, after three treatments, Peters is showing signs of recovery.

His girlfriend, Kristin Conner, who accompanied him on his most recent trip in January, said a follow-up MRI  revealed the brain lesions had dissipated. Two weeks later, the lesions were downgraded further to “mild” and were only present in a small portion of his brain. His energy is returning, his vision is improving and it’s getting easier for him to stand up with support. Conner said that in India, he actually took steps backward and forward. He’s getting well, but he needs at least one more treatment. “We are confident that he will walk and skate again,” she said.

A long and expensive path lies ahead and Peters is counting on the goodness of friends and strangers to make it. The odds are clearly in his favor. “The amount of support and interest that the contributors are demonstrating has enforced a sense of positive community in this scene that I have never witnessed before,” said Dalton. “Almost every day lately, I will get en e-mail or call from someone I’ve never met wanting to contribute to the show.”

It’s been a long strange trip for Peters, and all he really wants is to get well so he can help others. Having seen miracles worked in India, his wish is to spread the word about the hope that lies in stem cell therapy as well as to educate people about Lyme disease. Both he and Conner are deeply moved by the efforts of their friends. “It’s bringing tears to my eyes that these people are so kind. He is one loved individual,” she says.

Peters says he’s “super excited and grateful. What they are doing is awesome. People are banding together. I just want to bring more awareness to Lyme. Even if I help one person, it’s worth it.”                

The Gavin Peters Rock and Art Benefit will be held Friday, March 19, 6 p.m., at the Lodge, 11 S. Ash St., Ventura. Live music by Franklin for Short, Forgotten Science, Ill Repute, Monster Hand, T.F.W., Char-Man, Bad Trips, Whiskey Chimp, Heather Rae and more. The show is all-ages, tickets are $12 in advance (Salzer’s Records, Five-Points Skate, www.ticketweb.com) and $15 at the door. All proceeds go to Gavin Peters. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/helpgavin.

 

Matt LinaresThe art

by Claudia Pardo McFadyen

Brook Dalton, organizer and avid art collector, is curating the art exhibit for the Gavin Peters benefit, an eclectic mix of works in a variety of media — oil, acrylic, watercolor, ink, charcoal, photography, printwork and collage, in diverse sizes and thematic approaches.

Humorous paintings by Santa Barbara artist Andy Proctor, ambiguous characters by L.A native Mike Stilkey, the rock photography of Tim Bramlette and animated imagery by Evan Ames are a few of the contributions to the cause. The exhibit will be displayed at the Lodge in an improvised installation on the night of March 19 only. All work is for sale at a fraction of its actual value.

Also among the contributing artists are Oxnard-based Matt Linares (pictured: “Behold Mr. Incomplete”), who has donated several of his acrylic paintings. His imaginative renderings of highly detailed robots in settings evocative of Armageddon are visual concoctions of galactic fairy tales. L.A. artist ZOZO’s graffiti-inspired paintings incorporate icons from American pop culture and carry the urban whimsy of illustrative technique. Myna Sonou’s featured work is an engaging story of mythical suggestion, sensually organic and serene despite its elaborate visual narrative. Dale Dreiling from L.A. offers a large, slumberous portrait of Bill Murray amidst a textural collage.  

The underlying and impressive aspect of this eclectic mix of work is the unpretentiousness that surrounds it. Both established and emerging artists — even an anonymous painter — have generously given their work and allowed Dalton the discretion to price it accordingly. Equally impressive is the caliber of art for sale. Nontraditional works, edgier visual themes and tongue-in-cheek characterization make up the bulk of the exhibit. Max Neutra from L.A. will also be painting live.

Other contributing artists are: Lisa Cruz, Ventura; Drake Bays,Ventura; Kile Garcia, Ventura; Matt Barks, Ventura; Meaghan Myers, Ventura; Nick Goodenough, Ventura; Ian Gonzaga, Santa Maria; Trevor Beld-Jimenez, Ventura; Mickey Lecler, L.A.; Kristen Williams, L.A.; Steven Russel, Ventura; Rob Sisson, Ventura; Seth Pettersen, Ventura; Aaron Cornelius, Fillmore; Sasha Green, Ventura; Cam Miller, Santa Barbara; Grant Ensminger, Ventura; Eric Salamon, San Francisco and HARO, L.A.           

Art may be viewed online and purchased prior to the event. Work that doesn’t sell at the event will remain for sale online with proceeds going to Gavin Peters: www.michelle leclerc.com/GavinPeters.