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Auction for the Arts raises funds for accessible art programming in Big Sky

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Attendees of the 11th Annual Auction for the Arts participate in the paddle raise component of the auction that raised funds for the Arts Council of Big Sky’s affordable art class program. PHOTO BY MARCO DELGUIDICE

The March 2 action was the Arts Council of Big Sky’s “most profitable event to date,” with nearly $100,000 going toward affordable community art classes. 


The Arts Council of Big Sky hosted its 11th Annual Auction for the Arts at Montage Big Sky on March 2 to raise funds that provide affordable arts programming and education to the community. 

The local nonprofit aims to make the arts accessible to everyone, according to the Arts Council’s development director Katie Alvin. It does this through various programming including the free Music in the Mountains summer concert series and a “Contribute What You Can” model for community art classes. 

Through the auction, the Arts Council’s only major annual fundraiser, nearly $100,000 was raised for the sliding-scale art classes through general bidding and an anonymous matching donation,  Alvin said. Additionally, approximately $70,000 was raised for operating expenses and to help fund other Arts Council programming. 

The cost-flexible art class model seeks to eliminate barriers to entry for community members to participate in art classes, according to a press release that preceded the event. According to Brian Hurlbut, the Arts Council’s executive director, 40% of art class participants take advantage of the pay-what-you-can program; 14% overpay so that others can participate.

“Raising additional funds for this program will allow it to continue,” Hurlbut said in the release. “Our goal is [to] provide access to the arts for everyone, and this program is the best example of that.”

The art classes offered at BASE are also available in English and Spanish to help increase accessibility for community members. 

The auction featured works from many returning and local artists including David Mensing, Carrie Wild, Kevin Red Star, Ryan Turner and Jake Mosher, and was attended by an estimated 250 people. The Arts Council also provided live music from the Mike Murray Duo during the event. 

“It was our most profitable event to date, which was great,” Alvin told EBS. “And the event itself was probably, I would say, our best ever. We got the best feedback from the people who attended.”

Alvin noted that a particularly special moment was watching artists finish painting live at the event that immediately went up for auction. Attendees were able to interact with the artist and their process before purchasing the work, creating an “art experience, not just a fundraiser,” she said. 

“We are a classic nonprofit and most of our programming is free,” Alvin said. “When we do sell tickets for things, the ticket costs generally go straight to the artist… Another key part of what we do is support working artists and support people in the music industry or in the arts industry.”

The Arts Council will also be included in the 9th Annual Give Big Gallatin Valley, a 24-hour fundraiser in May that supports local nonprofits. Last year the event raised $2.87 million for 230 nonprofit organizations in the Gallatin Valley. 

Donations to support the Arts Council can be made through their website or in-person at their office year-round. Money from people that overpay for an art class also goes directly into the “Contribute What You Can” program.

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