BRATTLEBORO — Over 14 items are up for auction that are as varied as a South African safari, a natural Vermont fieldstone bird bath, a rocking chair, and hand-knitted mittens lined with cashmere at the River Gallery School's B-Day Bash on Saturday. RGS's benefit silent auction has been an annual fundraiser, but this year they are rolling in a 40th birthday celebration to the evening that is sure to make it a festive event. To spice things up even more, in addition to the silent auction there will be pop-up auctions throughout the evening spontaneously "popping up" in different locations, contributing to that party feel. Co-founder Barbara Campman will be honored on Saturday to thank her for her commitment and years of dedicated work for RGS. An excerpt from an RGS pamphlet said of Barbara, "Her singular understanding of the mix of ingredients needed to create a nurturing environment for the creative process has helped to make RGS a very special place where transformations can and regularly do occur."
River Gallery School was founded by Ric and Barbara Campman in 1976 with after-school art classes in The Ingenuity Shops on Putney Road. Since then RGS's profile has continued to rise. By 1988 RGS had expanded enough to move to second-floor studios at 127 Main St. in order to include much-requested adult classes to the agenda. In 2006 they moved to the second-floor studio of the renovated Wilder Building at 32 Main St., and most recently they have expanded to include the street-level space of Gallery 34 and Main Street Studio that allows for more visibility for more community interaction, lots of luscious lighting, and easy access. RGS's mission is to provide a studio space in which students of all ages explore their creativity through the practice of making art. At RGS everyone is welcome regardless of their level of experience.
Creative Director Lydia Thomson, who has been a staff member since 1994, recalled that when she first brought her daughter to the school for art classes how much her daughter loved the feeling there, how different it was, with no rules to bind her. Today, with a staff roster of 20 plus instructors, RGS offers classes in studio art for children to adults, life drawing and painting, printmaking, watercolor, sculpture, landscape and encaustics. There are summer and vacation camps, outreach programs, weekend workshops, art trips and museum outings. Programs include Sequencing, an approach developed by Ric Campman; RGS Outreach, working with area senior citizen facilities; Collaborations, to work with areas schools; and Ability Arts offering creative classes and workshops for people with various disabilities.
Since the first Cabin Fever Benefit Auction some 20-odd years ago, these fundraisers have traditionally been a fun event with food, music, and wine, while stepping up the venue each year. Last year it was held at Scott Farm in Dummerston. This year it will be held at S.I.T./World Learning's main dining hall. Staff member Kim Colligan is coordinating the event with Betsy Gentile. According to RGS's Development Coordinator/Administrator, Donna Hawes, "Kim has a few tricks up her sleeve. She pays attention to detail and has a knack for making party space fun. There will be a few surprises." For music entertainment, The Butterfly Swing Band with members Scott Sizer, trumpet; Walter Slowinski, clarinet and alto sax; Mark Anagnostopulos, guitar and vocals; Lynn Lovell, bass; and Joe LoMonaco, drums, are ready to liven things up with classic swing from the '20s to '40s. Delicious food will be catered by S.I.T., a cash bar, and of course birthday cupcakes that are donated by local bakeries to help celebrate their 40th.
All items to be auctioned are donated by local artists, craftspeople, business, restaurants, students and friends of RGS. What won't be in this auction though are pieces of art, Those will be once again be offered next March in a repeat of last spring's successful Off the Wall event, dividing their one huge annual event into two, but still their largest, fundraising functions that support RGS's programs and scholarships. Other fundraisers include their alumni show that occurs every five years, due to happen this December. a Postcard Show created by students then sold, and the popular family event — Angels, Beasts, Shepherds and Kings in November plus numerous other activities,
Thomson mused, "People moving here have a reason to be here for the art culture. They find us because of it." But even so, with all of the exceptional support from the community, it still surprises the staff how many people don't even know that RGS exists. It is time everyone knew what a valuable treasure RGS is!
The B-Day Bash begins on Saturday, at 6 p.m. at S.I.T./ World Learning Campus on Kipling Road, Brattleboro, Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at rivergalleryschool.org. Items in the pop-up auction may also be viewed at their web site.
Contact Cicely M. Eastman at 802-254-2311 ext. 261.