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Going ... going ... gone!

Going once...going twice...sold! It wasn't Christie's in New York, nor was it Sotheby's in London. It was the Blair Art Museum in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. There were no Picassos or Renoirs to be seen, but there were precious objects d'art and unique opportunities for collectors. The selling prices didn't approach millions of dollars, but pieces brought selling prices as high as $110 -- the sales to enhance the Art Enrichment Program in the Hollidaysburg Area School District.

From a collection of over 2000 pieces, seventy-seven pieces of framed artwork and sculptures created by children in kindergarten through twelfth grade came to the auction block. Playing to a standing-room-only crowd of over 100 including parents, friends, district educators, and business and community leaders, a professional auctioneer from the area gave life to the active bidding. Applause roared through the audience when a second grader's line drawing titled A Girl and her Books sold for $105.

Works included line drawings, watercolor and tempera paintings, pen and ink, pastels, prints, copper work, clay pieces and a quilt with patches designed by first grade students.

The "Young at Art"

Auction Project

"Yout at Art" was a combined effort of the entire art staff of the Hollidaysburg Area School District sparked by one art instructor, Phyllis McConnell. With the cooperation and the encouragement of the district administration, teachers selected pieces that were representative of the district's art curriculum. Students whose works were chosen, signed waivers relinquishing their rights so the pieces could be sold. Elementary teacher Vykky Longo, reflected that the purpose of the auction was "to build respect for kids and their art." Invitations were sent out to businesses in the area, and pieces were gathered for the sale. Art teachers Dennis Levish, Craig Miller and Jack Zerby helped hang the collection in the district administration's office building for a month-long preview for the community. The papier mache yak, cheetah, sitting fish, walrus and raspberry-colored hippo created by elementary students along with numerous ducks and tutu birds, greeted the young artists and their families at a reception given by the district to honor the artists. The show was moved to the Blair Art Museum for the auction. As each patron entered the museum, he/she received a card displaying a number for bidding. Each piece was brought forward by the teachers for the bidding. Applause, cheers, smiles and cash were the evening's results.

The Goals

The goals of the department included the recognition of outstanding student artists (K-12) and the dissemination of artwork into the community. The pieces showed the progression of artistic development through exposure to twelve years of art curriculum while encouraging the students to experience the world of art exhibition and auction.


Where did the pieces go? Two pieces were purchased by the district to begin a permanent art collection that will be housed in the junior high school for all students to enjoy. A law firm in Toledo, Ohio, will be graced by another of the elementary drawings, Children Playing. The bidder indicated that the office housed a preppy style of art and needed to lighten up a bit. A local gift shop in town, A Different Drummer, purchased a piece by the same title, only to sell it the first day it appeared in the shop. Even the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Leo Gensente, outbid a patron for a piece by thirteen-year-old Brian Watt entitled Rush Hour 2050 to decorate his office. A local dentist's office became the home of the piece entitled Smile, smile, smile! Art teacher Phyllis McConnell remarked, "The auction didn't just spread art throughout the community, it spread positive feelings about the paintings, the kinds, sense, and value of art."

The teachers plan to have a second art auction next year and are already revising the project. Slides taken during this year's auction will be presented at all the schools in the district and to businesses and civic groups in the community to encourage all to participate. Proceeds from this year's event covered the cost of T-shirts and the reception for the artists and their families as well as the cost of framing and matting. The remaining profit will establish an art enrichment program for the district.

Student Outcomes

What was the students' general reaction? They found a sense of camaraderie with the other student artists and were amazed at the prices people bid for their work. Each felt a sense of pride in having work selected as well as a sense of accomplishment when the work was matted and framed professionally. Student artists were delighted when the three top administrators of the district donned bright yellow T-shirts with the auction's logo. They also recognized each other's talents -- one elementary artist and his mother bid on a junior high school student's artwork. When next year's art auction was announced, one student summed up the feelings of many -- "Let's start drawing."

Darla Wilshire is Staff Development Consultant, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania.
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Title Annotation:art auction
Author:Wilshire, Darla
Publication:School Arts
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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