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Big Sky Art Auction draws admirers from across the country

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A couple admires one of the 100 different pieces featured in the Big Sky Art Auction at the Basecamp Tent for Big Sky's Biggest Week in the Wilson Plaza on July 19. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – On a walkabout through the Big Sky Town Center on Sunday afternoon, Bruce and Landess Witmer, who are from Reno, Nevada but have a home in Big Sky, stopped in to the Big Sky Art Auction to admire a table by World Designs. It struck them as something that would fill a void in their Reno home—an empty corner with a cast-iron fire pit and brick floors.

World Designs owner Jenny Ladd visited the Witmers at the table and told them about the cast-iron legs and the teak wood top, which came from India. 

A beautiful cuff ring featuring a bison by jeweler McLane Moody, another perfect fit for Landess, also captured her heart—and her bid.

The table and ring that caught the Witmers eye are two of nearly 100 unique pieces that were up for bid at the auction between July 14-18.

A passerby examines some art on his walkthrough at the Big Sky Art Auction. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER

“We’re just kind of common folks who thought it would be fun to be supportive of whatever was going on in the community,” said Landless of coming upon the art auction. “I always like to support artists … and then I think they’re going to give to different charities, too.”

Now in its sixth year, the Big Sky Art Auction, produced by Outlaw Partners, publisher of EBS, has incorporated a largely philanthropic spirit. Charity beneficiaries from this year’s sales included Big Sky Bravery, Big Sky Community Organization, Heart of the Valley, Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance, Women in Action, Gallatin River Task Force, Haven, Big Sky Community Food Bank, Bozeman Art Museum, Warriors and Quiet Waters, Gallatin Valley Food Bank, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and AXE ALS.

A Big Sky Edition custom SQ5 Audi that came with a Yellowstone fly rod, Yeti cooler and rod box sold for $71,000 with $6,000 benefiting Habitat for Humanity of Gallatin Valley.  Sponsors included: Courtney Collins Fine Art, Jackson Hole Jewelry, Audi Bozeman and Old Main Gallery.

“We’re very pleased with the variety and selections that were sold,” said Ennion Williams, V.P. of events at Outlaw. “We raised money for charity and we raised money for the artists … we’re happy to offer this to the community as a great event.”

Participants bid throughout the weekend through the Auctria app and visitors gazed at art pieces from inside the big white tent in Wilson Plaza, the soothing voice of local musician Amanda Stewart performing in the background. Other popular works included the Antler Accented Desk by Doug Nordberg of By Western Hands, the painting “Elk at Elkridge” by Jim Dick and a Glacier River Tungaá surfboard by Chris Burkard.

In the last hours of the auction, people trickled in, filling the tent. Although the auction was hosted online and the high-stakes energy of a live auction was missing, it allowed people to be quiet and contemplative among the many pieces of art, sitting with (and sometimes on) each piece. Williams also noted that the format allowed people to enjoy both viewing the art in person and bidding from the comfort of their own homes, which he says provides “the best of both worlds.”

A hand-made sculpture from a By Western Hands artist went home with lucky bidder Scott Heppel. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER

Right after the bidding closed at 6 p.m. and winning bidders celebrated their new works, Scott Heppel grabbed his new By Western Hands sculpture from its display table.

Scott and his wife, Carol, have been going to Cody, Wyoming since 1995 for By Western Hands shows. Heppel recalled, in intimate detail, a beautiful lamp he purchased from the artisan cohort at last year’s Big Sky Art Auction. This year, he’ll bring his sculpture and hand-beaded tissue box by artist Lynda Covert back to his home, which he says is mostly furnished with By Western Hands pieces. 

“You can just look at the details on these things and see what an incredible amount of work are put into these pieces,” he said. He loves the functionality of their pieces, he says, how you can “eat, sleep and live with them.”

Today, July 19, the art is clearing out of the Big Sky’s Biggest Week Basecamp tent, making way for the Dick Allgood Inaugural Community Bingo Night on July 20 and a performance by local band Dammit Lauren! 

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