The Lawrence Arts Center will hold one of its largest annual visual arts events, the Lawrence Arts Center Benefit Auction, on Saturday, April 14.
This is the 32nd annual art auction, which will feature 150 artists and is the primary funding source for the Arts Center’s exhibitions program.
Hong Chun Zhang, who also has an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery through October, is the featured artist for the auction.
Participation in the auction is by invitation only, so as not to burden local artists who regularly receive requests for donation of their work. A silent auction that features about 100 of the artists is under way now during gallery hours at the Arts Center and concludes before the live auction April 14.
Artwork being auctioned is on display in the Arts Center’s main galleries, and silent bidding began Friday. Tickets to the live auction are for sale at the Arts Center and cost $40 in advance and $50 at the door.
Although the city owns the building, the Arts Center funds exhibits, programs and events through individual contributions and business partnerships.
The auction enables the Arts Center to maintain five exhibition spaces for visual arts and pursue opportunities to maintain and expand those exhibitions.
“We are committed to enhancing our ability to exhibit the works of artists across the spectrum, 12 months of the year,” says Arts Center Executive Director Susan Tate. “When people come into our galleries, we want them to be engaged in a dialogue. Our auction makes it possible to have a director of exhibitions, Ben Ahlvers, and for us to offer programming, artist talks, films and publications about the exhibits.”
Zhang, who along with her husband, John Kennedy, and their 6-year-old daughter, has made Lawrence her home since 2004, says that she is eager to interact with the auction audience.
“I cannot wait for the auction. I’m going to face everybody, and I will speak out loud about how important the Arts Center is. This is my home, this is my community,” she said.
Tate says that part of the purpose of the exhibitions program at the Arts Center is to build long-term relationships between art patrons and artists.
“If the buyer knows the artist and likes the work, then they will want to continue to invest,” Zhang said. “That’s how the whole business is going in the art world. The Arts Center really provides that opportunity.”
As the featured artist, Zhang has created original art for the auction and display in her Arts Center exhibition, “Hay Wire,” in the past year, and she also has taught classes to children and shared her techniques and experiences with fellow artists across the region.
Tate emphasizes that the battle over public arts funding in Kansas has not dampened the Arts Center’s mission or the area’s enthusiasm for the arts.
“The people who believe arts funding is important are energized to make sure it comes from private sources and to continue to assert the importance of public arts funding,” Tate said. “It isn’t only about money, it’s about the perception of the state. What we believe in for Douglas County, we also hope for the rest of the state.”
Zhang is not the only nationally known local artist to serve as the art auction’s featured artist. Coincidentally, last year’s featured artist, Roger Shimomura, has an exhibit in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s “Asian American Portraits of Encounter” alongside Zhang’s.