For Something So Worthy As Scholarships
An art piece donated by Tori Bryer, co-chair of PNCA's 2012 Benefit Art Auction, is transformed into scholarship opportunities.
Tori Bryer, a member of the PNCA Board of Governors as well as a painter and monoprint artist in town, has more art than she has wall space for. Like others in her situation, Bryer occasionally rotates the artwork in her home and studio so she can enjoy the pieces she has spent a lifetime collecting.
Some pieces, however, for one reason or another, never quite make it into the rotation. Instead, they sit, wrapped and hidden, in storage for years.
Untitled (Dreamscape Series), an enormous (5’ x 6’) ink drawing by Arnold Bittleman, was one of those pieces. The drawing, executed in tiny, hatched pen strokes, depicted owls turning into sunflowers turning into owls. The piece is one of a series, the others of which are part of the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Bittleman’s work can also be found at the MoMA, the Whitney Museum and the Boston Museum of Art.
Bryer had grown up with the Bittleman drawing. Her father had purchased it in the 1950s from a gallery in Boston, and she remembers it hung on the dining room wall of her childhood home.
“The subject matter was… well, difficult. It was phantasmagoric,” Bryer explained.
Though Bryer could appreciate the craft and artistry of the piece, she was not sure she wanted to live with it all the time.
“It’s a very fine drawing, and it was fascinating, but I felt that someone else could probably appreciate it more.”
Her solution? Bryer donated the piece to PNCA’s 2009 Benefit Art Auction. The late-winter, evening event is significant for a one big reason: All proceeds from the auction go toward student scholarships at Pacific Northwest College of Art.
Every piece of art in the auction is a donation from a member of the PNCA community. In past years, pieces have included a portrait of Marilyn Monroe by Philippe Halsman, an acrylic painting by Sally Haley, and a ceramic and glass mosaic piece by local artist Ken Shores. The proceeds have real, tangible results for students: More than 93% of the 600+ students at PNCA receive some form of financial aid.
Student scholarships enable PNCA to attract many of the region’s most promising students whose limited economic means make it imperative for them to seek high-quality educational opportunity at an affordable price. However, many of these students still find it necessary to work in order to meet their tuition expenses. Scholarship support enables dedicated students to fully participate in the academic, civic and social life of the PNCA community and help them assume professional roles in society after graduation.
Elizabeth Leach, co-chair of the 2010 auction and also a member of the school’s Board of Governors, agrees: “Scholarships often are the deciding factor in a talented student choosing PNCA – and Portland – over other areas of the country, and we are committed to doing all we can to develop local talent.”
“And really,” Bryer, who is co-chair with Sheryl Acheson of the upcoming 2012 auction, adds, “it’s just a plain fun party – really fun – and there’s an exhilarating tension in the air all evening.”
Fast forward from Bryer’s decision to donate artwork to the 2009 auction night:
You’re at The Nines Hotel in downtown Portland. The room is tense with anticipation. The low hum of chatter quiets as internationally renowned auctioneer Malcolm Barber, CFO of San Francisco-based Bonhams, clears his throat. As he introduces the Bittleman drawing, the men and women lean forward in their chairs in anticipation. And then, it seems, both ages later and almost before it has begun, it is over. “Sold!” Barber cries, clapping his gavel on the podium.
The quality of the art work, the professional acumen of Bonhams, as well as the extraordinary presence of Malcolm Barber, arguably one of the best auctioneers in the world, make PNCA’s Benefit Art Auction the only event of its kind in Portland. It’s a highlight of the city’s winter social calendar. The auction also attracts interest from out-of-state collectors and telephone bids from afar. It’s a special opportunity to learn about art, contribute to the College – and, of course, to collect.
By donating her Bittleman drawing, which had been living in storage, Bryer gave the piece a new life. It now lives proudly on the wall of a collector in Connecticut and it earned $4,000 for PNCA student scholarships.
“The College is important to the whole community,” Bryer said, “The people at this event are interested in its welfare. It’s a pleasure to see art turned into something so worthy as scholarships.”
This year, PNCA’s Benefit Art Auction will take place on February 23, 2012, beginning at 5:30 pm at The Nines Hotel in downtown Portland. For the 4th year in a row, PNCA is pleased to announce that Jordan Schnitzer will serve as honorary chair.
The art will be revealed on February 10 at the Heathman Hotel during a special preview reception. View the catalog online at http://www.pnca.edu/auction beginning in January.