story and photos by Brittany Ransom
The Center for Art and Education (CAE) celebrated five years of 5x5s on Saturday (March 8) evening, at its fifth annual 5×5 Gala. Hosted at the Fort Smith Convention Center, the event featured fine dining, lively auctions, and one-of-a-kind art for every guest in attendance.
The evening kicked off with cocktails and the opening of the Artisans Square, where more than a dozen artists were stationed. Many demonstrated their unique techniques and showcased pieces from their collections, while visiting with guests about their work.
Hundreds of 5×5 canvases, for which the event is named, were on display throughout the Convention Center, giving guests the opportunity to browse before the "Art Dash." Pieces ranged in style and content, with many depicting outdoor scenes and floral arrangements, while others were more abstract in nature. Each canvas was crafted by a local artist or volunteer who donated their time and talents to the project. More than 100 individuals created works for the event.
During dinner, the live auction got underway. CAE volunteers carried around bid items for guests to view, which included several custom-made works of art. Guests could also take their chances in the silent auction, 50/50 drawings, or on the balloon pop for the chance to win big money.
The first round of Art Dash numbers were announced by Master of Ceremonies Daren Bobb. With each round, guests rushed to grab the art of their choice to take home from the event. While many scrambled to get to their favorite work before it was snatched up by someone else, no one went home empty-handed.
The fifth annual 5×5 was the center's largest event to date, with more than 300 guests in attendance. Owen Shackelford, CAE Gallery Director, attributed the large crowd to the event's growing popularity and reputation within the community.
"This is a significant increase over last year’s crowd," said Shackelford. “We know that once people come to this event, they never want to miss it."
Tickets were $75 and included cocktails, dinner and an original artwork. The gala serves as the primary fundraiser for the CAE.
"The great thing about this event is that it doesn’t just benefit CAE each year. It provides tremendous exposure to our featured artists," said Shackelford. "It provides a real economic benefit to them as well."
For nearly 40 years, the center has served as 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, photography contest, and regular "Art Night Out" events.