Ah Haa auction

The 29th annual Ah Haa Art Auction, ‘Find Your Spark,’ goes live today (Friday) at noon and runs through Aug. 7 at noon. In this Planet file photo, local Robin Jones shows off an auction item during a previous in-person event. (Planet file photo courtesy of Jim Hurst)

Like the many festivals that fill up the summer calendar, the annual Ah Haa School for the Arts auction is a must-do for locals and visitors alike. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way it’s looked the past couple years, the school is still offering some one-of-a-kind items during this year’s virtual auction titled “Find Your Spark,” which goes live today (Friday) at noon and runs through Aug. 7 at noon. 

To sign up for a paddle and check out all the items, as well as bid on them, visit events.handbid.com/auctions/2021-ah-haa-art-auction

Aside from recovering from the economic impacts of the pandemic, which essentially eliminated all in-person offerings, the school has been planning to move into a new location in the Silver Jack Building on Pacific Avenue after leaving its longtime home in the Depot Building. Most recently, the American Academy of Bookbinding building has served as the school’s interim offices. Ah Haa Executive Director Marty Wollesen, who replaced longtime head Judy Kohin this summer, explained that the move should be complete by the end of the month. 

“Naturally, we are very, very excited to move into our building at the end of the month and begin offering classes and workshops in the fall. All this will be announced soon along with special exhibitions, celebrations, community art projects and more,” he said. 

The fundraising goal for this year’s auction is $200,000, which will go toward kick-starting programming to make classes and workshops accessible to all, Wollesen added.

“At Ah Haa School for the Arts, we believe everyone is creative and the arts should be accessible to everyone at all times. Our fees reflect helping to support a living wage for artists and the necessary resources to offer high quality experiences that are a hallmark of Ah Haa,” he said. “The importance of having a fund to support those in need, especially young people, is critical in helping us create access and opportunity for creative expression.”

Items up for auction include everything from oil paintings to a weeklong getaway to Tucson, Arizona. Founder Daniel Tucker donated an oil pastel painting titled “What the Mountains Said” to celebrate the school’s 30 years in the community. Sponsors San Miguel Power Association and Basin Electric Company also donated two electric bikes. 

Kathleen Cole, the school’s special events and marketing manager, thanked title sponsors Alpine Bank and Slate Gray Gallery for their support this year, and explained there’s more ways to support the school’s efforts outside of the auction. 

“We have so many fabulous items, including artwork, travel, experiences, restaurant gift certificates, services and more,” she said. “But for those feeling like they just want to give, they can directly support our Possibilities Fund or American Academy of Bookbinding school, or help us purchase deck furniture, kitchen equipment and more for our new building.”

Even though in-person classes were a no-go over the past year-plus, especially since the new space wasn’t finished, the school adapted and started offering take-home kits that have become so popular that they’ll continue to be available. 

“Ah Haa School for the Arts like all of us have been impacted by the pandemic, but as you know, we have also not had classrooms and studios while our new home downtown has been under construction,” Wollesen said. “Because our staff are endlessly creative, we developed Ah Haa To Go art kits during the pandemic, which are take away kits containing step-by-step instructions to complete specific art projects. People can choose from a variety of age-appropriate options, from painting to bookmaking to embroidery. We are continuing this very popular activity as we move forward.”

The school is also looking to hire teachers. Anyone with prior arts experience should contact assistant director Jess Newens at jess@ahhaa.org. The call for candidates added, “no phone calls, please.” 

As the school returns to more normal operations in its new home, any support will be “especially impactful” this year, according to an auction news release. 

“We turn to the arts for comfort, hope, inspiration and connection. Making art gives us a vision for how to move forward during challenging times, serving as a mirror to reflect and respond to what is challenging, what is confusing and what is beautiful. With your help, Ah Haa School for the Arts can carry the creative torch that will help our community heal, grow and persevere. The generosity of our patrons is what will make this possible,” it reads. 

For more information, visit ahhaa.org