Sold on success of auctions

Fund-raiser: St. Louis Catholic School adds new twist to its regular artwork event.

February 27, 2002|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The cafeteria of St. Louis Catholic School was full of people talking, eating and drinking - but it wasn't lunchtime at the Clarksville parochial school.

This crowd of about 500 was gathered a few minutes before 8 p.m. Saturday, many of them wearing night-on-the-town finery, sipping wine and munching appetizers as they chatted and examined artwork for sale.

The school was holding its biennial art auction, this time to raise money for its crisis management program, started after the 1999 student killings at Columbine High School in Colorado, said Principal Terry Weiss. The program continues to evolve as the school considers ways to cope with possible disasters, she said.

It was the school's seventh such auction, held every other year in partnership with Avatar Galleries of King of Prussia, Pa. The gallery provides the prints, lithographs, photographs and other works of art that are auctioned, and the school provides the venue.

This year, money from the auction will be used to purchase such crisis-related equipment as telephones for the classrooms, a battery-operated television and hand-held radios. The school serves boys and girls in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Also new this year was a silent auction of items that had been painted by children attending the school. The silent auction was not affiliated with Avatar, so all of the proceeds went directly to the school.

Six silent auction items were for sale, including a mirror with hand-painted angels on the frame (created with the help of third- and fourth-graders) and a picnic bench with multicolored handprints (created with the help of second-graders).

Maria Morrison, parent of second-grader Olivia, said she bid $150 on the picnic bench. But her husband, Gene, approached a moment later with bad news. "Somebody just blew us out of the water," he said. "They bid $300." When the silent auction was over, the piece had sold for $320.

The auction is a serious undertaking. Kathleen Hrinkevich, chairwoman of the art auction committee and a St. Louis parent, said she began planning in August. "It's a lot of work, but we have such a great community here," she said. "We have over 150 volunteers."

The theme of this year's auction was "Shower our children with opportunities." Parents Heather Muckenhirn and Luisa Palting brought the theme to life by adorning the cafeteria and hallways with dozens of brightly colored umbrellas, and placing children's rain boots filled with silk flowers on many of the tables. Sparkling streamers were draped along the walls to look like rain.

Parents donated food, including chips and dips, cheese and crackers, meatballs, chicken wings and vegetables. Vintage Cellars in River Hill Village Center donated beer and wine. Five members of the committee traveled to Pennsylvania to select the artwork.

All the hard work seemed to pay off the night of the auction. From 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., visitors could eat, chat, bid on the silent auction and examine the artwork around the room. At 8 p.m., the auction began.

The rows of folding chairs in the room were soon filled, and people who could not find seats lined up against the walls.

The first piece of art, a mixed-media work called Floral Poetry, sold for $390 on the first bid. Soon after, a bidding war began for a lithograph called Le Visite. Auctioneer Steve Little kept the patter going as the price increased in $20 increments until a bid for $340 proved successful.

By the end of the evening, more than $20,000 had been raised through sales of artwork, tickets and advertising. "We are very excited," said Tammy Way, a parent and publicity co-chairwoman for the auction committee. "This is one of the largest fund-raisers we have for the school."

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