April 14, 2013
By Jack Bogaczyk
HUNTINGTON – You might not want to brush off attending the 2013 Big Green Scholarship Foundation Dinner.
The 35th annual Marshall Athletics fundraiser, presented by the Francis Charitable Foundation, is scheduled Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m. at the Cam Henderson Center.
Come prepared to be really entertained.
If you’re familiar with the unique work of Dan Dunn, you know what I mean.
The title of the event is “A Salute to Excellence” and Thundering Herd student-athletes will be honored and speak. But the headliner is Dunn, the improvisational speed painter who has wowed audiences worldwide by throwing paint at a canvas and creating masterpieces.
A one-time caricature artist, Dunn, of Houston, has been a featured performer on various network TV shows, including a Super Bowl pregame show. With his PaintJam show, he has appeared on stage with the likes of Bill Cosby, Shaquille O’Neal, Jay Leno and Queen Latifah.
Now, in a 20-30-minute show, he’s prepared to wow the Big Green crowd by creating three Marshall-themed paintings – 6 by 6 feet, “two repertoires and one a custom,” he said -- that will be silent-auctioned to the audience to raise funds for Herd athletics.
The subjects of the paintings, you ask?
“We try to keep that on the lowdown; we don’t tell,” Dunn said. “You don’t want it going through the audience that I’m doing this, or this. I can promise you we’ve got a very good show for Marshall. It’s a very different show, special. It’s going really well in rehearsal.”
Dunn, married and a father of five, “really wasn’t a starving artist, but it was close.”
To get started on what is a labor of love – not to mention a very lucrative one – he paid $45 a month to rent and occupy a space which he tarped. He rehearsed for a year and a half before his first show, close to home at The Woodlands, Texas. It was Fourth of July event, in 2005. He speed-painted the Statue of Liberty.
“This event is huge,” Dunn said. “They get tens of thousands of people there every year. They didn’t know how it would go, so they put us on right at the start when there were only about 600 people there. We took off from there.”
It wasn’t long and Dunn, 55, was the headliner and finishing shows in Atlantic City, N.J.
“When they reviewed the show, the writers loved what I did,” Dunn said. ‘They ripped the other parts of the show … The reviewers in Atlantic City have seen everything, but not what we did … the other actors hated me.
“From there, it went viral,” he said. “I didn’t have a website, and my daughter was 13 and she put it on YouTube. We started getting phone calls … I didn’t understand it wasn’t my own account.
“It was my daughter’s account. The first month, I figured we’d have 150 views. We got a million views the first month.”
When Dunn painted Ray Charles, it was 85,000 views an hour.
“It took off when the iPhone first came out with the YouTube button,” he said. “We just happened to catch the wave. The timing was perfect for us.”
Dunn’s work has raised more than $1 million for charity, which “is just amazing,” he said. ‘I’m paid well, but it’s a real blessing to me that we can do so much good in that way …
“We did one of Shaq when he played in Phoenix for the Suns’ charities. He signed it and it went for $42,000. Two other people wanted one, so we did two more and raised $126,000 total. We did $160,000 a night for the boys and Girls Club in Boca Raton, Fla.
“It’s gone as high one place as $60,000 for one painting … It depends on the room, depends what you start at (with the bidding).”
Dunn’s work can be viewed at PaintJam.com.
The Big Green event also will include a special presentation to Marshall’s Super Bowl XLVII champions from the Baltimore Ravens.
Five current Herd student-athletes will speak – football twins Blake and Eric Frohnapfel, golfer Nathan Kerns, swimmer Kaley Gregory and Leslie Thomas of women’s track and cross country. Thomas also was Miss Marshall at 2012 Homecoming.
Other athletes being recognized for their respective sports are: Dennis Tinnon (men’s basketball), Laura Der (volleyball), Ashley Gue (softball), Erica Woods (women’s basketball), Korakot “Gone” Simsiriwong (women’s golf), Sarah Vinson (women’s soccer), Zach Hunter (men’s soccer), Jack Whitney (men’s cross country), Dominika Zaprazna (tennis) and Isaac Ballou (baseball).
Individual tickets for the dinner are $80. Call the Big Green office for reservations or table sponsorship information, at 304-696-4661.