Upcoming art auction canvasses to local talent

Local artists Stephanie Siemieniuk, left, and Matthew O’Reilly each donated a piece of their work to the annual Thunder Bay Art Gallery Art Auction.

When she was an emerging artist, Stephanie Siemieniuk said the Thunder Bay Art Gallery helped encourage her to not give up.

It was in 1999, when she was selected to be a part of her first juried show.

Her relationship with the art gallery endured over the years and now Siemieniuk has donated a piece of her artwork to the gallery for A Sweet Northern Affair Art Auction on Sept. 29.

“Thunder Bay Art Gallery is one of our treasures and they do provide so many opportunities,” said Siemieniuk. “For years I’ve just been trying to help support that.”

The annual auction is one of three major fundraising events the art gallery holds every year, explained Alastair MacKay, communications and marketing co-ordinator for the gallery.

“That money comes in and goes towards our exhibitions as well as the 5,000 or so kids that come through for schools and tours, everything the education department incurs in terms of cost, which is considerable,” said MacKay.

As a kindergarten teacher, Siemieniuk said she really appreciates the educational programs the gallery runs.

“I’m always so grateful they provide these field trips. You just have to get here and they give creative opportunities and there’s exposure to all the cultural diversity,” said Siemieniuk. “We’ve got to keep it going and you’ve got to rely on the artists to help out. It’s a good feeling.”

With over 40 pieces of original work by local artists going up for auction, MacKay said the event does attract new people to the gallery but also welcomes back regulars.

“There is a core group that are very supportive of the gallery all the time and they are always looking for something they don’t have,” said MacKay. “Because they appreciate and value art, they appreciate and value the gallery and they want to continue to do that.”

Matthew O’Reilly is a local artist who works at the art gallery doing a myriad of jobs and was pleased to be able to donate a painting to the auction.

“They’ve given me a lot as well as exhibition opportunities through my undergrad and up to this point and even the Perspectives From Here show that’s on right now,” said O’Reilly. “It’s been a lot of great opportunities and any chance to give back is good.”

The auction is also a great way for local artists to get exposure and even network with other artists and buyers, said O’Reilly. As well, artists have the option of retaining a percentage of what their piece sells for at the auction.

Siemieniuk agreed the auction holds value for the artists.

“You don’t always get an opportunity every year to be in a show,” said Siemieniuk.

“You’re constantly working and building but when you get a chance to give (a piece) or place one somewhere, other people will see it and it helps us along the way as well as helping the gallery.”

This year the auction will be presided over by the Auctionista, an auctioneer from southern Ontario who does work with the non-profit sector.

“I think you’ll see a lot of energy,” said MacKay. “Auctioneers have different styles. Last year was quite quiet and laid back, but the money was there and the fun was there. We’re looking forward to it, it should be good.”

The evening begins at 7 p.m. and includes a silent auction table stocked by local businesses and appetizers provided by Sweet North Bakery.

Tickets are $50 each or $400 for a table and are available at the art gallery or over the phone with a credit card.

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