Upstairs Artspace Spring Auction raises $12,000

Published 12:11 pm Thursday, May 19, 2011

There’s nothing like a live auction. The night of Saturday, April 9 was quiet in Tryon, but it was crowded and bustling at the Upstairs Artspace. More than 200 people attended the Upstairs’ art auction, one of the gallery’s major annual fundraising events.

The auction featured community donated art and included some paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints.

“We’re so grateful for the generosity everyone showed,” said Carol Newton, vice president of the Upstairs’ board of directors. “We called for help from our community, and that’s exactly what we got.”

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Sales from the evening’s events raised over $12,000, twice the amount generated by the gallery’s previous auction. Proceeds will support the Upstairs in an economic environment presently challenging so many businesses, but certainly, specifically, the arts and artists.

“We see this fundraiser as a sort of clearinghouse for good will,” said Newton. “We received an unprecedented amount of art from the community, auctioned those items off, and the money we generated will be used to support this community-based arts organization.”

Newton especially credited volunteer co-chairs Gail Muir and Harry Sparshott for their commitment and energy.

“In March, Harry sent out an email that said we only had 15 pieces so far, which was a lot less than the 100 pieces we had at the last auction. He and Gail put out the alert and we ended up with 250 pieces. That was because of this wonderful community. We put an article in the Tryon Daily Bulletin and the community heard the cry. People stepped up and proved that this is truly the community’s gallery. That’s what we want it to be,” said Newton.

Staff member Wyndy Morehead was one of many people involved in the hands-on preparation that went into the event. Morehead reported that 99 percent of the donated artworks were sold that evening.

“The quality of pieces was high – and that’s what we wanted – but we were truly pleased with the range and depth of the items we were able to offer,” Morehead added with a smile, “I think there might have even been some ‘Antiques Roadshow finds’ among the night’s offerings.”

Donated work included a large array of folk art and pieces from well-known local artists, including Claude Graves from Little Mountain Pottery and Jim Cullen from Roundhouse Pottery. Many local artists contributed pieces. Landscape and portrait artist Rich Nelson donated a painting that sold for more than $2,000 at the live auction.

All week, the silent auction drew bidders to their hoped-for treasures. They wrote down their bids, then returned throughout the week to see if anybody had bested them. Saturday afternoon, bidders returned in earnest, hovering in the vicinity of their treasure, if not directly over it, lest someone outbid them.

Someone banged a pot: “Final bids! The silent auction ends in five minutes!”

Auction organizers said the atmosphere was exciting and festive and there was a lot of scurrying around in the last seconds. Local residents, art collectors and those hoping to score a bargain stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of nearly 250 works of art.

At 5 p.m. sharp, the silent auction ended. Winning bidders went home happy, treasures in hand. Then the live auction began.

The success of a live auction depends on the skills and performance of the auctioneer. Bill Jones, a retired stockbroker who lives in the Lake Lanier community, hosted the live auction and served as its auctioneer. Jones’s presentation of the items was, expectedly, fast-paced and efficient, but also comedic as he cajoled and joked with more than 30 live bidders, at one time pulling a phone out of his coat pocket, pretending to talk with someone who had, in fact, placed an earlier bid. Jones was enticing the live bidder to outbid the early bid – and successfully did so with little effort. Written bids were allowed for live auction items, but were almost always quickly overcome when the live bidding started.

The next major fundraiser is the gallery’s third annual Art Trek Tryon, July 29 – 31, when more than 30 local artists open their studios to the public. The Trek is preceded by a gala preview party Friday evening. More information will follow as it becomes available.

If you’re interested in becoming involved with, or a member of, the Upstairs Artspace, call 828-859-2828.

– article submitted by Wendy Thomas