art league of bonita springs: Patrons make off with art at ‘Off the Wall’ fundraiser

Art patrons may often wish they could pull pieces right off the wall of the gallery to take home. Last week at the Art League, they did just that.

The annual fundraiser Off the Walls drew nearly 200 to the Art League of Bonita Springs. All artwork was donated by artists, many whom participate in the juried Bonita Springs National Art Festival each year.

The pieces, valued from $275 to $6,000 were a mix of paintings, photography, sculpture, jewelry and other mediums.

Ticket holders entered the gallery at 6 p.m. to begin creating lists of their favorites. After mingling and enjoying catered hors d’oeuvres by Russels Clambakes, attendees gathered in the Main Gallery at 6:30 p.m. as ticket numbers began being called.

The first ticket pulled belonged to Jeanne Smith who chose a piece of jewelry.

“I didn’t get a chance to look at much, but I knew I liked this,” Smith said.

The excitement built as tickets were called and each ticket-holder ran to claim their favorite piece before the next ticket holder beat them to it.

Crissy Haertel was called mid-evening and was excited to find the piece she wanted still hanging on the wall.

“This same piece was here last year and I really wanted it, but it was the first piece chosen,” Haertel said.

The winner of this piece from the previous Off the Walls, donated it back to the Art League for this year’s event.

“I was called at the end last year,” Haertel said. “I saw it back here this year and I was so excited but I didn’t think I would get it.”

The evening turned out the same for many other patrons who left happily clutching their favorite pieces. Others weren’t so lucky and had to settle for a piece that they hadn’t originally chosen. But all went home with a piece of artwork worth far more than their ticket price. And, there is always next year for those wanting to try their luck again.

In the end, those attending give a life-long gift of art to a child. All of the funds raised from Off the Walls support the children’s education scholarships at the Art League.

In 2008 the Art League of Bonita Springs awarded $36,000 in scholarships. In 2009 the Art League has already awarded more than $49,000.

“Twice as many parents requested financial aid for their children this summer and fall,” said Susan Bridges, executive director of the Art League. “Some lost their jobs or took pay cuts to keep their jobs. The point is they wanted to provide their children with our wonderful programs, and needed our help.”

More than 60 percent of students enrolled in Art League classes receive some type of scholarship. All classes in the children’s education program are available to scholarship students. Classes include painting, pottery, clay animation, drama, movie making, photography, dance and more. Pricing for a five-week semester ranges from $45 to $112 (dance semesters are 19 weeks and range from $158.50 to $201 for the semester). Part, or all, of the tuition can be covered by a scholarship. Most students are eligible for some type of scholarship.

“Studies show children who participate in arts are more likely to succeed as adults,” Bridges said. “We work closely with each family, carefully crafting every scholarship. This year we chose not to turn anyone in need away.”

According to Bridges, the Art League has set a high goal for fundraisers this year, hoping to raise a total of $135,000 for their annual fund. This money covers supplies, programming, maintenance, instructors, and children’s scholarships among many other things.

For a complete listing of Art League programming and events call 495-8989; visit the Center for the Arts at 26100 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs; follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Artleague; or visit on-line at www.artcenterbonita.org.

Meghan Easterly is director of public relations at the Art League of Bonita Springs.

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