BY ANN SIOCK
With the end of fall looming in sight, AFA Gallery, 101 Penn Ave., Scranton, is preparing for its annual Holiday Auction featuring works from local artists and artisans.
This year’s auction kicks off on Friday, Nov. 6, at 6 p.m. and runs until Friday, Nov. 20, just before midnight.
This year’s auction will be different from previous years. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the auction has been made almost entirely remote by event organizers.
“We are taking CDC guidelines incredibly seriously,” Conor O’Brien, acting gallery director, said. “So, everything we do, we are first and foremost making sure we keep our patrons, our artists and ourselves safe.”
“We have a really beautiful collection (of works) from past, present and, hopefully, future (artists),” O’Brien said. “There’s a lot of rich use of color in a lot of the pieces, and I think that we can all agree that with everything going on right now, vibrancy and color and uniqueness is something that we can all benefit from, so I’m really in love with it.”
The auction features over 40 pieces across mediums, including painting, sculpture and photography. Along with the artwork being auctioned off, AFA is giving community members the chance to bid on and win a number of art experiences, such as a private silent disco for up to 30 people donated by the Scranton Fringe Festival.
The importance of the auction can be seen not only from a fundraising aspect but also from a community one, O’Brien said.
“The AFA auction is our largest fundraiser every year,” O’Brien added. “Normally, it is a large in-person event that celebrates the year we’ve had. It’s kind of been the start of the holiday season. There’s food and drinks and music and a live auctioneer, and it’s been a staple of our programming since the organization began in the 1980s.”
This year is particularly special for the auction as the community not only adapts to the new online format but also prepares for the first auction in its new location on Penn Avenue. Moving presented costs for AFA, O’Brien said, and the organization is trying to grow its programming and revive its work in the new normal.
“The event is more accessible in a way,” O’Brien said. “You can be sitting at home in Scranton or at home in Columbus, Ohio, and bid on the work. … Theoretically, it is now open for anyone to view.”
Kristin Kosin, AFA Gallery president, expressed a similar outlook.
“What we’re really excited about is that you can really share (this experience) with your household,” Kosin said. “(We’re) excited to expose our community to the arts. We’ve been doing virtual exhibits since the summer because it is not always comfortable or safe to go out.”
The gallery will be open for in-person looks at the pieces, but attendance will be limited. All bidding must be done online from a computer, phone, tablet or other mobile device. Guests can view the exhibit in person starting Friday, Nov. 6, from 6 to 9 p.m. They also can view the exhibit Thursdays through Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m. or by special appointment.
To place a bid or view artwork online, visit AFA’s website, artistsforart.org. Registration is free, and winners will be contacted within 24 hours of the auction’s close on Nov. 20.
AFA will release a filmed version of the exhibit on its website by the week of the auction. This will allow the public to view the pieces before they go on sale. Along with a preview of the piece, this virtual exhibit provides information about them, such as size and artist backgrounds.
Kosin highlighted the importance of the auction as a community event and a morale boost to combat the sometimes bleak backdrop 2020 has painted for artists in the community who have had to table some of their projects because of the pandemic.
“The support from the community through this event is important,” Kosin said. “It’s kind of a love letter to (our) artists.”