Auction to raise funds to expand art center in Presque Isle

Posted April 18, 2013, at 7:04 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For more than six years, an Aroostook County organization has provided artistic enjoyment and creative fun for children, teens and adults in the city.

But while participation in all programs offered by The Wintergreen Arts Center has grown, it is a constant challenge to secure long-term funding for the nonprofit organization, Wendy Gilman-Zubrick, the center’s executive director, said Thursday.

Building on a successful venture last year, however, the organization is planning another art auction to raise funds that, when combined with grant money, will help transform the facility into a downtown cultural center.

Officials with the Wintergreen Arts Center and the University of Maine at Presque Isle are making final preparations for their second annual art auction. The event, titled 12×12 Art Auction, will feature original works on 12-inch-by-12-inch canvases by more than 50 artists from throughout Aroostook County, the United States, and Canada.

The fundraiser will be held 6-9 p.m. Friday, May 3, at the Wintergreen Arts Center.

Gilman-Zubrick said Thursday afternoon that she and Heather Sincavage, UMPI assistant professor of fine art and director of the Reed Fine Art Gallery, have been planning the event.

“I read about such an event and Heather said that she had done one in the past,” Gilman-Zubrick said. “We did one last year, but it was a 10×10 art auction. We decided to expand it.”

As part of the event, the arts center provides participating artists with blank 1-foot-by-1-foot canvases to fill in any way they choose. Artists have between late March and the end of April to complete their works, which will be put on display in the Barresi Financial Gallery at the center starting May 3. A silent auction and reception will begin at 6 p.m. that day.

Each canvas will hold a reserve bid of $60. Bidding will end at 8:30 p.m. and winning bids will be announced at 8:45 p.m.

Gilman-Zubrick said she and Sincavage are excited about the work artists are producing.

“We are incredibly pleased to have so many fine artists returning this year to take part and to welcome several new artists to this show,” Gilman-Zubrick said. “We are delighted by some of the pieces we’ve seen already. If their work is any indication, the 12×12 Art Auction is going to be even bigger and better than last year.”

She said that artists from as far away as Oregon and California are taking part, with some being amateurs and some professionals.

When combined with grant funds, money raised during this event will help with expansion plans at the facility. The arts center and UMPI are partnering on a $50,000 Maine Arts Commission Creative Communities = Economic Development grant that will be used to develop the second and third floors of the center into a downtown art gallery and an emerging artists’ studio space, both overseen by the college.

With Wintergreen located on the first floor of the building, this will create a new downtown cultural campus, with three floors of arts-based activities that are expected to have an impact on the community’s revitalization efforts.

While the second-floor gallery will include room for climate-controlled storage of artwork, the goal is to have a more expansive gallery space that will allow for larger artwork to be displayed and larger group exhibitions to be held. The aim also is to have the facility serve as a real-world learning space for students.

The building’s third floor will be converted into art studio space for local and emerging artists. This first-of-its-kind space for the region will provide participating artists with high-quality studio space to rent and a built-in arts-centered community atmosphere in which to work. The floor will be divided into six to eight art studios with artists being encouraged to hold gatherings and offer classes or lessons in their spaces.

“We are hoping to begin the first phase of construction this summer,” Sincavage said. “It’s pretty exciting to see a collective dream begin to become a reality, and to see how 12×12 will be able to help it happen.”

Gilman-Zubrick said that Wintergreen also will use some of the money for its own programming, for scholarships for children, and to pay for its executive director’s salary.

“We have seen a lot of growth over the past few years,” she said. “Each new program we offer to kids seems to become more popular, so we are very excited for the future.”

For information about the 12×12 Art Auction, contact Gilman-Zubrick at wintergreenarts@gmail.com or 762-3576, or contact Sincavage at heather.sincavage@umpi.edu or 768-9442. The community is invited to attend this free event. Light refreshments will be served.

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