Festival of Trees adds featured artist to annual holiday benefit’s roster

Lawrence glassblower Bob Gent will be the featured artist at this year's Festival of Trees, which benefits The Shelter, Inc. This is the first year the festival has had a featured artist. Gent will have some of his glassblown Christmas ornaments sold at the annual auction, which begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Liberty Hall.

When the auctioneer’s chant quiets, some of the artful evergreens at the annual Festival of Trees have lassoed winning bids of more than $1,000.

That’s fantastic for The Shelter, Inc., which benefits from the holiday auction. But it leaves out charitable folks who want to participate in the fund-raiser but can’t afford to compete when the bidding goes sky high.

This year, a few more people :quot; perhaps 24 more :quot; will be able to make a donation and walk away from the festival with a unique holiday item.

Lawrence glassblower Bob Gent has created two dozen glass ornaments especially for sale at the auction, which will be at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Gent is the first in a series of featured artists who will make holiday ornaments at the festival each year.

No two of his ornaments are exactly alike. Working in his Lawrence studio this fall, Gent played with textures, using chips of colored glass melted to varying degrees. Some blend all the way and merge into the spheres; others rest nubby on the surface. Some are smooth. Many glisten with iridescence, an effect Gent achieved by spraying titanium onto the surface while the glass was still hot.

Through the years, Gent has perfected the art of blowing glass ornaments, which he makes en masse each fall, just in time for the holidays.

“The first 5,000 of them were real difficult,” he said. “The next 25,000 or 30,000 weren’t so bad.”

The ornaments will be sold for $25 :quot; higher than Gent’s normal retail, but he suggested the price hike to generate more dollars for The Shelter.

“I want them to raise as much money as they can,” he said.

He’s hoping the tree he and a handful of Lawrence youths created for the auction will bring a good price, too.

The illuminated, glass mosaic tree has more than 20 hours of work poured into it. It stands about three feet high and is topped with three slender, twisting glass tubes that Gent crafted in his studio and then shipped to a friend in Minnesota who pumped them full of glowing neon.

Gent’s tree will join about 50 others at the 16th annual Festival of Trees preview and auction. In addition, eight wreaths will be offered in a silent auction. Proceeds benefit The Shelter, an agency that provides emergency residential care for children with special needs.

The event raised around $43,000 last year.

“We always like to hope that we’ll raise a little bit more than the year before, but we’re happy with whatever we raise,” said Gail Vick, co-chairwoman of the Festival of Trees committee.

The trees typically bring from $250 to $2,250 at the auction.

The 16th annual Festival of Trees auction gets underway at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Liberty Hall, 642 Mass. Admission is $25. The party starts at 6 p.m. The trees and wreaths up for auction will be available for public viewing from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at Liberty Hall, 642 Mass. They’ll also be on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday. A $2 donation is requested for public viewing.

Among the most inventive trees planned for this year’s festival is “Chip in for Charity,” Vick said. The tree includes a two-hole miniature golf course. And if a passerby sinks a put, the tree lights up.

The Shelter is celebrating its 21st year in Lawrence. A brand new home for providing emergency residential care for at-risk children was made possible by funds raised at past festivals.

“It’s really a wonderful event that really is such a cross section of our community,” Vick said. “You get a very eclectic group of people who all really have one goal in mind and that is to support the kids in our community who really need some extra help.”