CB Arts Festival takes shape of online silent auction this year

Online bidding available until 11:59 p.m. on August 9

By Kendra Walker

The 2020 Crested Butte Arts Festival, though painting a different picture from years past, kicked off on Friday, July 31 with a virtual silent auction of 65 featured artists’ works available for bids through Sunday, August 9.

For more information and to view the artwork featured in this year’s Crested Butte Arts Festival “All in for the Arts” online auction, visit crestedbutteartsfestival.com.

Like many organizations in Gunnison Valley this summer, the Crested Butte Arts Festival team was challenged to reimagine their festival-style event due to the COVID-19 pandemic and decided to take the arts virtual and move to an online auction platform. It was important to get creative and make it work this year despite pandemic complications, says executive director Chelsea Dalporto-McDowell.

“We’ve never done this before,” Dalporto-McDowell says of the virtual auction format. “It’s hard to take things to an online space, but that’s where we’re at. We really wanted to keep the brand of the festival alive and our mission to support the artists and provide arts outreach programs for the community. It’s a really awesome opportunity for our artists to be a part of this space and for folks who can’t come to the valley to participate.”

Eighty percent of the proceeds from the “All in for the Arts” auction event will go back to support this year’s participating artists, five of whom are local to the Gunnison Valley. “The effort really is to support the artists  because they’ve lost their entire income sources for the year,” says Dalporto-McDowell. “It really opens up the opportunity for our artists to get in front of a much larger demographic of people.”

Dalporto-McDowell says this year’s juried artists were offered the opportunity to participate in the online auction, or they could roll over their acceptance into the 2021 event.

In addition to supporting the artists, the funds will go back into the Crested Butte Arts Festival’s arts outreach programming and fall grant cycle. In the past, the organization has granted funds to community causes including the Crested Butte Community School after-school arts program and Six Points.

Those interested in bidding on this year’s artwork must register at cbartsfestival.afrogs.org.

According to Dalporto-McDowell, about 100 people have registered so far and approximately $10,000 in sales have been committed to artwork in the bidding process.

“The bid increments are fairly low, and we start the price of the piece at 50 percent of the retail cost,” Dalporto-McDowell says. “One of the reasons that we did that is because of the shipping costs, which are in addition to the artwork costs. We didn’t want that to deter people too much.” Bidders also can “buy now” at the item’s retail sale price.

Dalporto-McDowell anticipates the bidding will pick up this weekend. “I do see the art auction will start to ramp up over the next several days,” she says. “It gets competitive there at the end and people get excited.”

And as with so many other changes brought on by the pandemic, Dalporto-McDowell expects the festival’s virtual space will become a new normal. “I do foresee this being a standard every year with the arts festival moving forward. In the arts fair industry, this is definitely new,” she says. “Art is such an emotional buy. It’s a hard sell for an expensive piece of art unless I’m seeing it in person. But I do see this as a standard that we carry forward, whether in collaboration with the festival weekend or an additional event.”

So far, the new format has been well received, says Dalporto-McDowell. “I’m really proud of our organization. We looked at it innovatively in how we could move forward and support our mission, and support the artists. The whole experience has really just solidified that you have to be innovative and think strategically to stay afloat,” she says.

Dalporto-McDowell notes the festival was made possible this year with the help of grant funding from the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley, Colorado Creative Industries, the National Endowment for the Arts and the town of Crested Butte.

“This experience is also bringing light to how our non-profit organizations in this valley can work more collaboratively,” Dalporto-McDowell says. “I hope to see arts organizations come together in a more fluid space. I think we need to help each other out.”

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