story and photos by Brittany Ransom
No one left empty-handed from the Center for Art and Education’s 5 x 5 gala on Saturday (Feb. 23) evening. Guests of the fourth annual “Artisans Squared” event all took home a one of a kind painting after enjoying an evening of fine food, drink and art.
Hosted at the Fort Smith Convention Center, this year’s gala featured more than 100 unique pieces in the 5×5 collection. Each canvas was crafted by a local artist or volunteer who donated their time and talents to the project.
Upon arrival, guests were served drinks and appetizers and given the opportunity to peruse the 5×5 canvases up for grabs in the art run. The silent auction was also open for bidding and included an assortment of artwork and prize packages. Guests could bid on the chance to win a children’s birthday party hosted by CAE or a special “Paint Night Out,” for adults at the art center.
Twelve local and regional artists were stationed throughout the banquet room with their tools in-hand. The artists “on the square” demonstrated their techniques transforming raw materials and blank canvases into showpieces, much to guests’ delight. Many of their creations were also on display for visitors to browse and purchase during the event.
The Art Dash kicked-off during dinner, with the first ten ticket numbers being drawn. Guests were called, ten at a time, to dash for their favorite painting. Eager attendees raced around the room to snatch up their selection before the next round of numbers were read.
The live art auction also got underway during the art dash. Board members and CAE staff carried auction items from table to table as guests bid aloud for each piece. Live auction items included pieces donated by the “artists on the square.” Gala-goers could also purchase 50/50 tickets for only $10.
The gala serves as the primary fundraiser for the CAE. Last year’s gala raised more than $10,000 and organizers hoped to meet or exceed that goal this year.
“This fundraiser is incredibly important to the center,” said Jane Owen, CAE executive director. “We are very dependent on the generosity of our donors and supporters and are so grateful to all those who participate in this event.”
Owen noted that while the center does receive some grants, the majority of its funding comes from private donations and sponsors.
“In order for us to continue to grow and offer our programs, we need the support of the community,” noted Owen. “It is vital to our success.”
Tickets for the gala were $75 and included cocktails, dinner and a piece of art to keep. The center sold more than 200 tickets prior to the event.
For nearly 40 years, the center has served as both a gallery and educational resource for local artists. New exhibits are brought in monthly and feature a wide-range of artists. Collections include pieces from local professionals, regionally acclaimed artists, as well as students from area junior high and high schools.
As part of its commitment to art education, CAE partners with area schools to offer art classes, workshops and summer camps for children. Local artists often lend their time to encourage young artists to hone their skills and pursue their passion. The center also sponsors an annual adult and student art competition, as well as a "photography extravaganza” contest.