Monday, May 18, 2015

Security for a Night

On Saturday night (May 16, 2015) I had the pleasure of working as "security" for the Sharlot Hall Museum fundraiser, "An Evening at Sharlot's Place." This event is the touted as one of the premier fundraising events in Northern Arizona. The evening consists of a gourmet dinner, live auction, and a silent auction. Artists and businesses from around the Southwest donate art work, Native American rugs, pottery, jewelry, vacation packages, services, and goods to be auctioned. The art is museum quality by some highly sought after artists, as well as some lesser known, but rising stars. Some of the artists were in attendance.

I had the opportunity to speak with Bill Neely, a woodcarver with an extraordinary talent for carving birds and restoring Katsina dolls. His piece on auction consisted of a 10 quail family set a top a stunning piece of Honduran mahogany. I can report that this piece was one of the most talked about items of the night. Not because of the birds, rather it that singular piece of Honduran mahogany. It was an imperfect, seemingly worm eaten chuck of log, and therein, laid its beauty. We have all seen various forms of driftwood or branch art.  Most of the time, there are only one or two points of real interest on the log, that is if its not serving as a fancy art stand. (I'm assuming, generally, really interesting wood is too fragile or rife with other problems to serve a piece of art.) But, this piece of wood, as told to Neely by his foresters, was not the product of disease, parasite, bugs, or worms, rather it was an "abnormality." Once again, nature providing a deviation with sublime elegance.

It was intriguing to hear from both artists and collectors about their work and collections. And, as I mentioned, I was there serving as one of the security volunteers for the event. In reality, I was there to ensure that the wind didn't blow the artwork away. I haven't attended this particular event before, but, on this night, it was relocated to the Centennial Center at the Antelope Hills Golf Club. The weather around Prescott has been "highly irregular" and with wind and rain expected, the event was moved from its usual outside location at the Sharlot Hall Museum. On this night, the venue was stretched to capacity, making it quite an intimate affair. I was nerve racked by every full wine glass and loosely held hors-d'oeuvre plate. The "art gallery" was outside in couple of tents which left little room for people to maneuver. In the end, nothing happened, but I was stressing half the night.

Ultimately, I made two observations on the night:

  1. Everyone should attend a fundraising auction as either a volunteer or attendee. It was great time to share stories and meet people in the community. This was especially important for me being new to the area. If nothing else, I learned what "stepping-out" in your "best" attire means in Prescott. I was pleasantly surprised by the diverse attire from retro-1880s formal to modern Western formal to Western business casual (suit coat and brand new jeans). Plus, if a man wore a hat, it was one of Western vintage.

  2. While the price of admission can be fairly expensive for a couple, especially when factoring in child care, there are great deals to be had at these events. Sure, some of the art can be expensive, but there were down-right steals to be had in the silent auction. Since I was outside, I don't know if there were reserves, but several quality pieces did not sell, while others went for below retail. If you are interested in starting an art collection, a fundraiser might just be the place to start. Also, if a local artist's pieces are too expensive in the retail market, an auction might be the place to acquire a quality piece hand selected by the artist. 

It was a wonderful night of art and schmoozing. Even as the "security," I was able to meet other volunteers from living history to docents to board members. And, the one of the things that I've learned over the years about schmoozing, if you don't have money, personality, or fancy attire, its to been seen over-and-over again. Just like in your college days, you go to the same bars, the same house parties, the same classes, and before you know have friends. And, for someone completely new to the area, I'm just happy to be seen at this point.

An Evening at Sharlot's Place occurs about May every year. Contact Sharlot Hall Museum for more information about the next event.

Get the History Edge via Email