By Lynann Politte
For Vashon Center for the Arts
The art-filled atrium and gallery at Vashon Center for the Arts tells the story of a community filled with artists — but look closer, and you’ll see how long some of the artists whose work is on display have been pillars of support for the arts center.
The work currently on display is up for bid for VCA’s gala fundraising auction, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25. The event will be live-streamed from vashoncenterforthearts.org. Hosted by Kevin Joyce and Martha Enson, the online auction will include entertainment, special guests, a “raise the paddle” fundraiser to donate money directly to VCA, and even a few “door” prizes.
But even though the auction itself will take place in a virtual space this year, the art can currently be viewed in person at the gallery now and right up until the time of the event. It can also be seen, bid on in advance or even purchased outright through a “buy it now” option.
And while the pandemic is making for an unusual auction this year, one thing hasn’t changed.
Once again artists, graciously and generously, have walked into the gallery with beautiful artwork for the auction. I had seen many of the artists in previous years. Others were new to VCA. But there they stood with their work in hand, asking for a procurement form, filling out the details, before giving me their precious art. Then off they went.
What struck me is that many of them have been doing this for years.
One of the organization’s founders, Chris Beck, recalled how the first auction for VCA — then known as Vashon Allied Arts — was held in December 1977, and was the inspiration of Vashon artist Penny Grist.
“Penny came up with the auction idea which I, at the time, thought was a waste of time,” Beck recalled. “Part of the reason I thought the idea was dumb was that I was eight months pregnant — and waiting tables at the auction while supervising was not my idea of a good time.”
But over the past 43 years, the auction has grown into both a major fundraising event for VCA and a showcase of the amazing amount of talent on this island. Beck now has grandchildren — and she and many of the original founding artists are still donating.
Grist’s watercolor and Beck’s porcelain door chime are part of this year’s auction offers. In addition, other founding core artists from the late ’70s continue to contribute art. Kaj Wyn Berry, Janice Mallman, John Woodward, Brian Brenno, Rose Belknap, Irene Otis and Hita Von Mende all have donated art for the 2020 auction. Darsie Beck, Chris’s husband, is offering a travel journal sketch workshop for two.
When Eric Nelsen dropped off his piece, he told me that he’s been donating to the auction since the 1980s. Elaine Hanowell, Joan Wortis, Donald Cole, Carol Schwennesen, Jenn Reidel and Pam Ingalls started donating in the 1990s. Morgan Brig and Jean Emmons have each donated over a 20-year period.
This is not an exhaustive list — VCA’s current auction includes stunning work from many others who have donated since the early 2000s.
All in all, this year VCA will offer art by more than 100 artists who have donated 130 pieces of art, during a time when VCA and other arts organizations are truly in need of the added support.
Funds for the auction will go to VCA’s Resilience Fund and its scholarship fund. And there is something in it for the artists, too, who will receive a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of their art. Buying auction art is a win/win situation for the entire arts community.
Come visit the gallery and see for yourself. Stand among the breadth of talent on this island. You’ll see what I’m talking about, and why visitors to the gallery have expressed their awe at the art filling VCA right now.
Gallery public hours, leading up to the auction, are 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Visit vashoncenterforthearts.org for more information and a link to the auction site.
Lynann Politte is the gallery director of Vashon Center for the Arts.