Buy an emu egg for Easter and help Alaqua

Bid on this painted emu egg by Marti Schmidt.

Artist and gallery-owner Donna Burgess has come up with the perfect Easter keepsake or gift for a loved one: a hand-painted, one-of-a-kind emu egg.

Those who are lucky enough to take the winning bid on these eggs at her Art of the Egg auction will also be helping an organization close to Burgess's heart: Alaqua Animal Refuge.

"These eggs are huge and have a really hard shell and are a beautiful teal blue/green," said an enthusiastic Burgess. "We will have lamps made from the eggs and jewelry. It's a fundraiser and all money goes to Alaqua."

Twelve local artists are participating and others have donated pieces to the auction.

So far, a dozen painted and etched eggs are slated to be auctioned during a silent auction soiree the evening of March 30 at Burgess's Grand Boulevard Gallery. Various local artists are lending their unique touch and style to each egg guaranteeing each one to be a one-of-a-kind treasure.

The artists have been given free rein to get creative in the endeavor and some will go beyond painting and create lamps and even music boxes from the eggs, said Burgess.

The emu eggs are from two residents of Alaqua: Zsa Zsa and Eva, who reportedly produce a lot of eggs. Refuge founder Laurie Hood said she has supplied 20 eggs to the cause so far and can contribute more.

"I think it's wonderful she is doing this and doing it on Easter weekend," Hood said. "Our most difficult job at Alaqua is raising money for all the animals' upkeep. And this will call attention to the fact that we have animals other than dogs and cats here to care for."

While attempts at raising funds by using Zsa Zsa and Eva's eggs in the past have been made, Hood is pleased that Burgess is taking the effort to a higher level with a soiree event at her gallery.

The party will include complimentary hors d'oeuvres from Cantina Laredo and Hartell's Diner, sweet treats from It Takes A Cake, as well as beer and wine. Entertainment will be provided by local artist and musician Cody Copeland. A donation of $10 is suggested at the door. The dress for the soiree is resort casual, but guests are encouraged to wear their best Easter bonnet and participate in the Easter bonnet contest.

Participating artists include, so far, Donna Burgess, Kim Chatwood, Chad Gill, Chance Jobe, Chase Johnson, Maxine Orange, Kim Pall, Wendy Prentice, Amanda Rhodes, Sarah Webster, and Allison Wickey — with more to come.

Wickey was Walton County’s Artist of the Year for 2011. As a visual artist, Wickey said her egg personifies a typical South Walton scene of the gulf, dunes, and trees.

"I used plaster and acrylic paint to give it a bit of texture," she said. "I am always happy to support Alaqua!"

This is jewelry artist Chase Johnson's first time to decorate an emu egg, but she is a long-time supporter of Alaqua. She plans to work around building a nest in driftwood from the Bay and leave one side of her egg natural and on the other side write a poem about spring.

The egg creations will be available for purchase through a silent auction, as well as original paintings, and art-inspired T-shirts.

"All the artists used their imaginations in this, and the eggs are fabulous and beautiful," said Burgess.

Alaqua is an independent non-profit organization located in Freeport which advocates the general welfare and humane treatment of animals by providing shelter, preventing overpopulation and offering adoption services. It is a no-kill shelter.

The Eggstravaganza will be held at Donna Burgess Gallery located at 585 Grand Boulevard, suite 102, (across from Orvis) from 6 to 9 p.m. March 30. The public is invited.