Struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic has become a common refrain within most industries — including the arts. Artists are now desperately in need of support due to major event cancelations, a main source of income for many. Which is what led the Crested Butte Arts Festival (CBAF) organizers to get creative.
In its 48th year CBAF will hold a virtual silent auction of more than 60 juried artist’s work — with 80 percent of the purchase price going back to the artist. Dubbed a “grassroots experimental project” by CBAF’s Executive Director Chelsea Dalporto-McDowell, this year’s festival came together as a collaborative effort with input from artists, organizers, volunteers and local businesses and nonprofits. The 150 juried artists were given the option to roll over their festival seat to 2021. About 65 decided to join the innovative auction experience.
The online silent auction opens tomorrow, July 31, and runs until 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 9. Patrons, artisans and those who simply love the arts will have the opportunity to place a bid on one or multiple art pieces. A “sneak peek” of available items is now viewable on their website without registering an account to bid.
Like many organizers in 2020, CBAF had to reimagine their event — which averages about 12,000 attendees — in a safe, accessible and fiscally sound way. Dalporto-McDowell immersed herself in the Gunnison County COVID-19 event subgroup webinars while learning the ropes of social media marketing and management. In an effort to protect the safety of artists and attendees, moving to an online platform made sense. Grants were then applied for and received through the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley, the Town of Crested Butte and Colorado Creative Industries.
The juried artists were surveyed early on in the pandemic to gauge interest in an alternative festival format.
“We asked them about the art auction concept,” explained Dalporto-McDowell. “I didn’t want to do something that wasn’t going to resonate with my artists.”
An auction block cost — or a webpage presence — of $40 per artist with 20 percent of proceeds going to CBAF was proposed and agreed upon. The 20 percent furthers CBAF’s nonprofit mission of “engaging our community in arts outreach programs” such as with the Crested Butte Community School, Six Points and other local organizations.
Utilizing the user-friendly live auction platform Auction Frogs, the process of watching incoming bids and monitoring items will be familiar to an eBay user. A credit card is placed on file when an account is registered, then the highest bidder at the close of the auction will have their card charged the winning bid price plus tax. If watching the bids roll in isn’t doable, users can "set" their bid and the system will auto-bid for them up to that amount. Shipping charges — posted on each listing — are added to the account as a separate invoice and charge. Some artists have even added videos with their listing explaining their work.
Art pieces are grouped into like categories such as ceramics, wood, glass, mixed media, painting and more. What’s viewable on the site now is the total inventory that will be auctioned over the course of the festival.
“Art is a very ‘emotional’ buy,” reflected Dalporto-McDowell. “We wanted people to have time to connect with it or reach out to the artists and ask questions.”
An added benefit from the creation of the auction website is the opportunity to engage with a larger patron base “because there are a lot of people who can’t make it to the Gunnison Valley,” stated Dalporto-McDowell.
The new format may be utilized separately or in conjunction with future festivals.
“This is about supporting artists, the art industry is in complete disarray,” added Dalporto-McDowell. “We cannot lose the arts, it brings so much joy… we have to look towards what we can do as a community to support this initiative.”
(Morgan Schaefer can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Visit cbartsfestival.afrogs. org to register an account to purchase auction items. Email email@example.com if your account address is not the address you’d like your piece(s) shipped to.