Arts and Entertainment

Hop down the rabbit hole to an artsy affair

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After months of planning and preparation, Blue Heron staffers and volunteers are racing to the finish line to get ready for one of the Island’s largest and longest-running arts events — Vashon Allied Arts’ annual art auction, which will be held Friday, Sept. 19, and Saturday, Sept. 20.

“We’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” said auction coordinator Nancy Foster-Moss, as she sold silver raffle tickets to an overflow crowd at the Heron’s auction preview on Sept. 5.

This year’s theme is “The Mad Hatter’s Ball,” and organizers promise a “whimsical journey down a rabbit hole,” filled with art, performances, fine dining and, of course, competitive spending for a worthy cause.

The auction — VAA’s 31st one — will feature more than 150 works of art by some of Vashon’s most well-known artists, as well as “extravagant experiences,” including entertainment, travel and dining packages.

The stakes are high for the auction to be a success.

According to Molly Reed, VAA’s executive director, the fundraising goal for the weekend is to net $120,000 to support VAA’s operating budget and scholarship programs. Of that amount, Reed wants $25,000 to go to scholarships for young students who would otherwise not be able to attend VAA classes.

VAA’s 2007 auction netted the same amount hoped for this year — $120,000, with $9,000 going to scholarships and $23,000 spent on much-needed building repairs to the 97-year-old historic Odd Fellows Hall housing the Blue Heron Center.

Reed said the building is now in “better shape,” but she acknowledged that “there are ongoing issues in an older historic building. We’re looking long-term.”

VAA, with an annual operating budget of close to $800,000, is responsible for a dizzying array of arts-related programs on the Island. Around $400,000 of its budget comes from fundraisers and donations, with the auction contributing one-quarter of those privately raised funds; the rest of its budget comes from earned income.

More than 150 classes for children and adults take place annually at the Blue Heron. VAA also collaborates with local teachers through its popular “Artists in Schools” program.

VAA hosts a yearly summer music festival, a garden tour, dance and drama performances, family performances, free concerts in the parks, the Panache Jazz Series and the New Works Series. It also operates The Heron’s Nest, a fine art and craft gallery featuring fine art and crafts by Vashon and Northwest artisans.

According to Reed, one way all these activities wind up improving the cultural climate of the Island is that they provide a steady income stream to Island artists.

Last year, VAA returned more than $300,000 to Islanders, including teachers, performers and artists displaying work at both Heron’s Nest and the Blue Heron gallery, Reed said.

“We’re in this circular pattern,” she said. “We continue to provide great services to people on the Island and opportunities for artists.”

Reed is excited to welcome the public to “The Mad Hatter’s Ball” and show off the treasures and treats her staff and board have assembled for the event.

“Did I mention the food?” she asked. “The Hardware Store is catering both nights. ... It’s a beautiful menu, and we’ve had fine wines donated to go with it.”

Reed said that in keeping with the topsy-turvy, down-the-rabbit-hole theme of the auction, Saturday night’s dessert — a raspberry and mousse concoction — will be served first.

“Life is short,” said Reed. “Why not eat dessert first?”

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