DISPATCH - APRIL 23, 2014

SPRINGS, NY-

If love, art and community could combine to create a single perfect moment, then Saturday at Ashawagh Hall might the place to watch for it. Surely somewhere, in the pinnacle of the Springs Mystery Art Sale, the crystallization of this trio will appear, surrounded by artists, art, Springs School students, and the adult volunteers that created a fundraiser that benefits an entire school and area artists.

If none of that occurs, then surely the sight of over 1,000 pieces of new art--all postcard size--will be enough of a wonderment. The show opens today (April 23) from 4 to 7 p.m. for its first viewing. Viewing continues through Saturday with the auction and art sale concluding with a Closing Party on Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. All sales benefit the Springs School Visiting Artist Program.

The concept for the Springs Mystery Art Sale is simple: offer art on canvas in a single size for single price. Every piece in main event is $20. The twist is that the makers of the art are secret. Purchasers must decide based on image alone if they want the work without the benefit of knowing if the artist is a student or a professional.

"It's a total mix in presentation," said Sara Faulkner, a benefit organizer, artist, parent, and participant of the Springs School Visiting Artist Program. "It's fun. It's a lot fun for the kids and artists. The kids are so buzzed up by the idea that their work might go someone who's famous or someone who's not their parent."

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Of the estimated 1,000 artworks, around 450 were created by professional artists or celebrities based in the Hamptons. Contributors include Chuck Close, John Alexander, William King, Connie Fox, Eugenio Cuttica, William Quigley, Dan Rizzie, Peter Dayton, Sydney Albertini, Elaine Grove, Jim Gingerich, Barbara Groot, Trish Franey and many more. Celebrity contributors include Dan Aykroyd, Jimmy Buffet and others.

The rest of the art was made by students of the Springs School. The public school educates students from kindergarten through eighth grade. It is based in Springs, N.Y. located next door to East Hampton Village. The Mystery Sale also includes larger works that will be auctioned during the Closing Party. Those were made by professional artists who wanted to contribute more than a single small work, said Faulkner.

"This is a new way for us to do this," said Faulkner of the school's fundraising efforts. "Springs has a rich history as an artist colony...It's a rich artist community. It's ripe for the pickings to do something like this. There's a lot of enthusiasm by the artists and the kids. Some artists didn't want to do only one work. We set up an area for bigger art and that will be auctioned off to raise money for the program too."

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The Springs School Visiting Artist Program invites area artists to work with students in every grade to create works of art that use techniques that go beyond acrylic paint, pencil or crayons. The program also aim of teaching creative thinking and the ways art can move beyond making a composition on paper. See separate story by clicking here.

This sensibility carried through in putting the benefit together. For instance, benefit volunteers sought the help of the math teachers (and their students) to help grid the 1,000 works on art so each would appear equidistant from each other while making sure every artwork has a place on the walls of Ashawagh Hall, explained Nancy Rowan, benefit volunteer, parent and Visiting Artist Program proponent. Rowan is also the owner of the Golden Eagle--an art supply store which offered art classes until its recent relocation to smaller quarters. (The search for a place to hold classes is ongoing).

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The Springs Mystery Art Sale is also an outgrowth from a school-sponsored program. Typically, a student art school is held each year at Ashawagh Hall. This year, Faulkner and a group of around 10 parents or teachers green lighted her idea to echo  a 20-year exhibition tradition in London.

The Royal College of Art hosts an annual ‘secret’ postcard exhibition and fundraising sale. This year's exhibition, held last month, featured 2,900 postcard-sized artworks by over 1,000 artists who donated works to benefit young art students, according to their website. Contributors to the London fundraiser included Grayson Perry, Paula Rego, Yinka Shonibare, David Bailey, musician Jarvis Cocker, architect Zaha Hadid, fashion designers Sir Paul Smith and head of Burberry Christopher Bailey, according to The Royal College of Art.

All works are priced at £50 each. Each work is signed on the back so collectors don't know the identity of the artist.

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Faulkner visited the London show around 15 years ago and the fundraising idea stuck with her. When the Springs School volunteers starting looking for an innovate way to raise money that didn't rely on donations from the business community, as in years past, Faulkner offered the idea. The concept to offer an art sale that mixed student and professional work with no names as  identifiers was embraced by the volunteers.

"It's really very circular," said Faulkner. "It's an event that helps students learn about art from artists, who are also helping raise money which goes to help pay artists work with the kids. It's really perfect."

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Having the fundraiser provide a part to play for the area artist community was appealing. So was the concept that the artist names are hidden--allowing art to stand on its own, no matter who made it.

"It levels the playing field in so many ways," said Rowan.

The benefit has taken months of work and a devoted team to pull it together. Hanging 1,000 works of art took two days and a team of curators, said Rowan. The first day, works by professional artists were installed. The second day, student art was selected to relate, complement and even mask the identity of art by working artists. Seeing the installation slowly spring to life--and watching the interplay of student art and professional artist--was a sight to behold, she said.

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The art is diverse with figurative and abstraction making a strong showing, said Rowan. After viewing the entire installation, Rowan was struck by the way student works and artist works were similar. She cited two drawings--one done by each camp--that were equally beautiful in their expression. It was also difficult to tell which was which, she said.

"It was a pleasure to see all of these pieces in one place," she said. "They really work well together."

Part of the reason may be the freedom this type of art project allowed students and artists alike, she said. The students may have turned up their efforts a notch, knowing the company their work would be placed with. Cloaking the artist names may have allowed the professional artists to lighten up, have fun with the art making and connect closer with their inner child, said Rowan.

"The artists may have become playful," said Rowan. "The kids really paid attention to composition and allowed for great work. It's really thrilling to see them side by side."

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In the end, knowing that local arts education for young students was a powerful catalyst that drew an art community together may be an equally-important take away as the funds raised to finance the Springs Visiting Artist Program.

"The most impressive message is how artists are supporting arts education for the kids and the future," said Rowan. "It goes right to your heart and it's a jolt of electricity. It's so cool."

BASIC FACTS - "The Springs Mystery Art Sale" will be held from April 23 to 27 at Ashawagh Hall. The art exhibition will be on view April 23 - 25 from 4 to 7 p.m. and on Saturday, April 26 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Closing Party and live auction takes place on Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. All money raised benefits the Springs School Visiting Artist Program. Ashawagh Hall is located at 780 Springs Fireplace Road, East Hampton, NY.

RELATED:  "ART SEEN: Snapshot of the Springs School Visiting Artist Program"

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  • Mark Perry

    Two of the postcards that I purchased are featured here! How exciting!! Can’t wait to take them home! What a wonderful event!

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