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Young artists join in annual art auction

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Proceeds help community food bank efforts

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – “The minute somebody touches paint to a canvas, they’re no longer future artists,” Gina Dee said. “They’re artists.” Judging by the colorful canvasses that hung in the foyer of the Lone Peak Cinema during the Arts Council of Big Sky’s annual Auction for the Arts, Big Sky just gained 20 new artists.

Dee is the director of designs and special projects at Provincial Store Fixtures Ltd. here in Big Sky and headed up the “young artist” program, which was part of the weeklong auction event, as a way to encourage children in the community to use art as a mode of self-expression. Through word of mouth, Dee was able to gather the kids in small socially distanced studio sessions in the week leading up to the auction.

The young artist exhibit hung in the Lone Peak Cinema foyer during the auction event and is now at The Rocks for a silent auction. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTS COUNCIL OF BIG SKY

In addition to painting for the auction, each artist was tasked with writing their own artist statement explaining their piece and what inspired them.

Their youngest artist, Elise, 3, painted a giraffe in a snowstorm. Bode began painting a scary monster, until he found out the event was intended to be happy, so he made a happy monster. Norma painted a scene of what her upcoming birthday party would look like. Silas painted his family’s new kitten, with the number “99999” on his collar, since he had meowed 99,999 times since they had brought him home.

“Each of these kids did something that they felt in their heart,” Dee said. “I asked every child that came in, ‘Is there anything you want me to download as your inspiration, or do you want to come from the heart?’ Well, most of them knew the day before they were coming. So that is something you don’t want to squash.”

The pieces have been moved to The Rocks Tasting Room & Liquor Store and will be available for purchase through March 15 via silent auction with all proceeds going to the Big Sky Community Food Bank. So far, four have sold and $2,000 has been raised—Dee’s goal is $5,000.

Jasper, 8, painted a heart with a rainbow background for the young artist’s exhibit. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTS COUNCIL OF BIG SKY

“I’m obsessed with the food bank,” Dee said. “I wish I could quit my job and run it but I can’t.” Originally from Burlington, Ontario, she and her husband witnessed the disparities affluent towns such as Big Sky often experience. “People just assume that there’s no need for a food bank, but I find the more affluent the town, the more prevalent the need is for the workers. And it gets overlooked.”

Interest in the exhibit has spread—Olive B’s expressed interest in hosting the next group and Dee says she hopes to continue bringing more young artists through and continuing to raise money for a good cause.

“I work in construction, but I was born and raised in the arts,” Dee said. “This gives me an opportunity to touch art again and do what’s passionate to me on top of my job, so to me, it had to be twofold: I love the arts, but it needs to do something for someone, to help something.”

She says too often in life, we have to “stay in the lines,” but art allows us—and teaches us—to break out of those boundaries and explore our creativity.

The Arts Council’s art auction spanned from Feb. 22 through 27, featuring a limited-capacity in-person cocktail hour and a successful online auction featuring over 70 different local artists. China Reevers, the Arts Council’s events coordinator, says since this year the event was virtual, and a weeklong, it brought in some new participants.

“The art is just more accessible and as the Arts Council, that something we’ve always strived to do, is the make ate accessible and get everyone participating,” Reevers said of the auction event. “This has in some ways has allowed us to do that on a larger style.”

Katie Alvin, the Arts Council’s development director, says this is their most profitable auction to date. 77 out of 82 different pieces were sold and they estimate that over 300 people were actively bidding on items throughout the week.

The Arts Council is currently working to raise money for a variety of programs, including their after-school programming, and is hoping to create a dedicated space for ceramics at the new BASE Community Center currently being built in Big Sky Town Center. Those interested in purchasing an art piece from the young artist’s exhibit can talk to the team at The Rocks or email Dee at

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