By James Pouliot
---- — The Newburyport Art Association is on the cusp of its annual spring auction, the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
Branded as the “Artful Feast,” the event will feature both a live and silent auction of artwork and donated services.
More than 100 artists from Newburyport to as far as Boston and southern Maine have contributed their works to both auctions, while a number of businesses are offering items such as gift certificates, getaways, and Celtics and Red Sox tickets to be sold to the highest bidder.
Artists split the proceeds with the NAA, choosing ahead of time to give 50, 75 or 100 percent of the money to the organization. According to Executive Director Elena Bachrach, more than half of the artists chose 100 percent this year. Last year’s auction raised $39,000.
While Bachrach and her colleagues curate the works to be auctioned, they constantly search for variety, she said. The works in Saturday’s auction run the gamut from abstract paintings to nature photography to modern sculpture, a deliberate mix of the association’s talent base.
“What I love about the work that I do is the diversity that I encounter,” Bachrach said. “I think it’s an incredibly rich, vibrant, active artist community, and a very collaborative one, which makes the work that much more joyful. ... I see that reflected in the demographics among the artists: men, women, retired, working, young. ... It’s across the board.”
When it’s not planning events, the NAA provides classes to beginning artists. Young artists share space with middle-aged adults and retirees who are turning their hands to the brush for the first time.
“What’s fascinating to me is that they all have such different life stories,” Bachrach said. “That creative passion comes from so many different places, you really cannot generalize in that sense. I love that about this community.”
Visitors without artistic inclinations are also invited for lectures, gallery walks and demonstrations of various techniques.
The NAA also relies heavily on the hands-on work of volunteers, with a number of art aficionados giving their time to the “Artful Feast” fundraiser. Around 40 volunteers are helping transport, hang and sell the artwork.
Artist Sara Demrow Dent is one such volunteer. She was enlisted well ahead of time to arrange the artwork that will eventually be sold off.
“The auction’s really great,” Demrow Dent said. “It’s exciting because the artists really give their best work to the auction. It’s not like somebody’s dragging something out of the attic.
“Artists wait for this, they know it’s a big event for the NAA and they give their best work,” she said. “There are so many beautiful options to choose from in all price ranges.”
Demrow Dent has been a member of the NAA for more than a decade and has served on its board of directors for the past month. She’s also a professional painter of landscapes, seascapes and poetry-inspired abstraction, including a piece called “My Beautiful Anchor” that will be available on Saturday.
While similar works retail for $1,500, Demrow Dent said she hopes she can bring in more than that to support the NAA and its programs.
For this year’s event, Bachrach has enlisted sponsorship from a number of art-loving organizations in the area, including Re/Max on the River and Oregano Pizzeria and Ristorante.
Oregano owner Paul Elias is a longtime patron of the NAA, having attended auctions for nearly half a decade. This year, he was approached as a sponsor for the first time.
“I said, ‘You know what? That’s the least I can do,’” Elias said. “My wife and I love the whole culture and the whole art scene, it adds value to your life. ... I love what they add to the city.”
Oregano has a long-standing relationship with the NAA, acting as a rotating exhibition space for members’ art. While the artists gain exposure and an opportunity to reach potential clients, Oregano and several other businesses get constantly changing, professional decor.
“Believe it or not,” Elias said, “I’ve been told by almost every artist we exhibited that they sold one or two pieces directly from displaying at Oregano.”
Bachrach points to that communal appreciation as part of the reason that Newburyport’s artists have been so successful: a high quality of life and abundance of scenic views, combined with a generous community of patrons who appreciate the value of original art.
If you go
What: “Artful Feast” fine art auction
When: Saturday, 5:30 to 9 p.m. Previews tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Newburyport Art Association, 65 Water St.
How much: $35 general admission, $50 for reserved seating and a VIP gift pack
More information: www.newburyportart.org or 978-465-8769