This past Tuesday, the Owens Art Gallery was left buzzing after the highly anticipated Sweetest Little Thing art auction.
Each year on Valentine’s Day, artists from Sackville and the larger Canadian artist community donate a piece of art for auction to fundraise for the Owens and Struts art galleries. Elaborately embellished, the cakes featured in the cakewalk were as stylish as the eccentrically and stunningly dressed event attendees.
A celebration of the tender and assiduous nature of collective fundraising in fine arts, the night acts as a reminder of the community’s devotion to the local art scene.
The diverse and charming assortment of submitted pieces ranged from small sculptural pieces to endearing paintings and drawings.
To donate a work to the auction, an artist must meet a few criteria. Artists can decide the medium as long as the piece adheres to the size requirements of 9” x 5” and is somewhat relevant to Valentine’s Day – whatever that might mean to the artist.
Third-year fine arts student Evan Furness, who worked the auction for the first time this year, explained that following the size requirements did not seem mandatory. Furness created a miniature house carefully detailed with white siding and black roofing. “Sometimes people put in really big things,” he said. “I guess I feel pressure to follow [size restrictions], but only because the whole idea of the Sweetest Little Thing is to auction off sweet little things.”
Fourth-year fine arts student Hailey Guzik did not feel creatively limited by the guidelines. Guzik contributed an oil painting, or, more specifically, a painted mattress which reads “69” that dangles from a colourful landscape set against a fluorescent background. “Personally, I enjoy the challenge of creating a piece that fits the Valentine’s Day theme but also reflects a bit of what my main practice is focused on,” she said.
Lucy Koshan, a third-year fine arts student, enjoyed the challenge of working within the event’s constraints in her making of a vintage “KISS” pinball machine. “Making a small sculpture is fun. It’s also easy, because a tiny replica of a real-life thing is automatically charming. If I felt pressure at all, it was just to make something that people would like, find funny and [want] to buy.”
Since fine arts students are often told not to produce any artwork for free – an artist’s work is an artist’s living – donating work and not getting compensated goes against the ingrained belief that the success of an art work is determined by the profit it collects.
For Jeff Mann, who rarely produces art for sale, extra attention had to be paid to the commodification of his artwork in the context of an auction. “Because it’s an auction, I try to make something that people might want to buy,” Mann said. “My work is often not meant to be sold to individuals, so I have to keep that in mind.”
Mann believes that it is important to support the fundraising efforts of galleries like Struts and the Owens. “I want to help support the Owens and Struts, [since] they are both very important to the town and provide so many great opportunities for students and Canadian artists….[Donating a piece of art] is also an opportunity to exhibit my work to the public,” Mann said.
Guzik thinks donating artwork is a more affordable way for students to support these facilities that promote art. “Since I don’t have a lot of money as a student to personally bid with [at] the auction, donating work is a good alternative [to show] that support,” Guzik said.
Third-year fine arts student Logan Milne was excited to be a part of the event this year. “Since the event lands on Valentine’s Day, it becomes a perfect chance to make some cute little art,” Milne said.
Milne created a miniature pink chair for the auction.
Thanks to Sackville’s Valentine’s Day evening of sugary lust for cakes and amorous appreciation of art, the local art community will continue to be supported for years to come. The Sweetest Little Thing is a fun, quirky and pleasurable evening that rejuvenates and reminds us of Sackville’s love of art.