Suzy Hand and art collector Richard Reamy
by contributor Donna Shor
It was a three-ring circus at the SELECT Art Auction WPA Gala co-chaired by Robert Shields and Sarah Valente.
Waiters buzzed about with countless different and intriguing mezze, toothsome little dishes, as guests bid against each other on the paintings and sculptures. The District Cheer, a group of enthusiastic and athletic young Washington area boosters, swept through the crowd with cheers, songs and lots of pompom waving.
Two busy bars helped fuel the evening, as well as a special one hosted by Belvedere Vodka, enhanced by Guinness shots for the hardy.
“It was my first time at the gala,” said Ashley Taylor, who came with her aunt, WPA Patron Susan Hand. They are the granddaughter and daughter of Lloyd Hand and his wife Ann Hand, the noted jewelry designer. Ashley will launch her own jewelry company this summer, a busy time as she is marrying fiancé Matt Bronczeke in June. Her line, featuring metal and leather bracelets, is called WEAR, for We Are Each Responsible, she explained, with a portion of each sale donated to a charity chosen by the client.
Bidding got tense on art-related trips as well as art works, fired by auctioneer Martin Gammon, the managing director of Bonham’s (and a familiar face from TV’s Antiques Road Show) and coordinated by Rujunko Pugh.
One whimsical piece, “Hare today, gone tomorrow,” had rabbit figures barely visible amidst the swoops and scrolls of color on the white background. It was bought by two of the evening’s Patrons, collectors Gretchen Hitchcock and her husband Donald Carter. The painter, blonde Kendra Wadsworth, booted and cowboy-hatted, is a Professional Artist educator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, and Richmond’s Visual Art Center.
The exhibition featured more than 125 works by emerging young artists; but these were not amateurs―they have already earned important awards, grants and fellowships. They were selected by a dozen distinguished curators and museum officials and the WPA board. Prices ran from as low as $400 for a few pieces up to the $10,000 range, earning the artists cash as well as prestige.
Lisa Gold, WPA’s energetic executive director, said that this support is an important part of the goals of WPA. Amazingly, WPA presented 67 events last year including workshops, screenings, exhibits, events and panel discussions. That is more than one a week done with WPA’s tiny staff of four on a limited budget supported by donations and the help of dedicated volunteers.
Saying that “artists make our area a more vibrant place to live and work.” Lisa urged party-goers to help sustain them “by taking home a little piece of their creativity: Bid often, and bid high!”