Maryland Federation of Art 36th Annual Collector’s Choice Sunday, 28 October 
by Anna Fine Foer

This is my first post for Bmore Art and I thought the annual fundraiser would be a good topic for a first time effort. There is a “twist”, even though we were not expecting a tornado, rather hurricane Sandy, the “biggest storm of the century” was how the news was spinning it. With the impending storm coming, it could have been a disaster, but the tickets were purchased, the caterers were ready, the wine was open and we couldn’t let a little hurricane get in the way of a good party to support a local art organization.

After all, this is Annapolis. Arguably, the largest collection of experienced sailors were in attendance to support Art in this town by the bay. The conversation was mostly about getting one’s boat out of the water and who had seen a storm like this before, and the Navy moving their fleet out of harm’s way in Norfolk. It was raining lightly, the wind was picking up and no one paid any attention to what was happening outside.

This is not a description or critique of the donated art, rather a summary of how it all works. Initially, I was hesitant to write about the event because I heard that other art organizations follow the same model for their fundraiser, but when Joann Vaughn: MFA Executive Director told me that “we did it first” I could proceed. Maryland Federation of Art, located at the Circle Gallery in Annapolis, across the street from the Capital, is a non-profit visual art organization dedicated to supporting artists at all levels through community outreach, education, and exhibition opportunities. There are 6 nationally juried shows throughout the year and seasonal, juried, member shows. It will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2013 with many events. Stay tuned.

Here is how it works; any MFA member is asked, many months in advance, to donate a work of art, 2-D or 3-D. Some years I made a collage specifically for Collector’s Choice and this year I had something framed that I knew I wanted to donate. Then the collectors/patrons are invited to the event which means they buy a ticket which costs $150 for MFA members and $185 for non-members. The ticket allows 2 people to attend the event including dinner, beer and wine. The food and drink are donated by local restaurants and merchants.

The price of admission allows the couple to go home with an original work of art, plus they meet the artists and mingle with other supporters of the MFA. I have been the bartender at this event for many years (I know, the fox guarding the chicken coop) and can tell you that most ticket holders maintain their support, year after year. It is fun to volunteer for this event and I always prefer to be working at an event, rather than being “in the audience.”

Ticket holders and the general public can preview the donated art work at the MFA Circle Gallery for 2 weeks prior to the main event, which is held at Annapolis Subaru dealership. Most of the donated artwork could be viewed on the MFA website in a virtual gallery. I have donated art to Collector’s Choice since I have been an active member of the MFA (around 15 years). I believe in what they do and have benefited greatly from having my work selected for local and national shows and strongly believe in giving back as a way of thanking the organization for the opportunities it presents. There is a wide variety of donated art; plein air paintings, portraits, nudes, decorative prints, abstract paintings, photography, wooden bowls, ceramics and the requisite maritime scene. This year there were even some cast busts, but they did not go home with anyone.

All the artwork has to be moved the day of the event to the Subaru showroom, which has more space for guests, catering and artwork than the Circle Gallery. In past years much of the artwork was displayed on tables, at an incline, this year there were metal grid walls so the art could hang, a BIG improvement. Another suggested improvement would be for the announcer to say the name of the artist each time a number is selected, which he did occasionally. This would help promote each artist, who may be in attendance. He did say, that if you like a certain artwork, to jot down the artist’s name and look for them on the web, which should be obvious but I wonder if only artists take that initiative. There used to be more emphasis on the artist meeting the patron who chose their work, which I always do and take seriously.

Each work of art is given a number, starting at number one and each ticket is assigned a number starting at three hundred. All the numbers for the artwork are on the actual frame and on a big board at the front of the room. Once the main part of the event begins, moderated by a WNAV radio host, the fun begins. The collectors’ numbers are randomly drawn and they make their selection by saying the number of the artwork and the number is removed from the board and there are groans from other collectors, who may have wanted the same work of art.

In the beginning, lots of landscapes are selected, by well-known Annapolis plein-air painters (at this point I always wish I bought a ticket). For the artists it feels like waiting to be picked for a kickball team in middle school. But, it could be that a collector really wants your donation and is waiting patiently for their number to be called. The selecting continues, numbers come off the board and those waiting to make their selection get a break to come back for more wine and reconfigure their list. Many collectors take their art home as soon as they make their choice, which was definitely the case this year because we were all expecting Sandy and were glad to be out of the house for the last time in what may be a long time. And, they would be able to enjoy seeing a new addition to their art collection on the wall of their home or yacht! Final tally:  # of art works donated 127 and  # of tickets sold 115.

Anna’s donation
collectors perusing the art
Anna Foer and Catherine Davidson, bartenders
Margie Boynton,  gallery assistant
Collectors peruse the art