Taking initiative to support struggling students

PSU students and professors, and members of the art community gathered in the new Fifth Avenue Art Building to raise scholarship money for art students at the “High and Low Art Auction and Gala,” Friday night.

The auction raised money toward five $3,000 scholarships for both graduate and undergraduate art students at PSU.

“We decided that since we’ve had limited scholarship money over the years, we were going to take matters into our own hands,” said Susan Harlan, a professor in the art department who helped organize the event.

“It’s really important that the university and the department support students that struggle financially,” she added.

The event featured both a silent and an oral auction of artwork by PSU art professors and students, as well as works by other prominent artists that were privately donated to the auction. In addition to the auctions, there was a “wall art room” of drawings on sale for $10 each and a raffle featuring work by current PSU faculty members as prizes.

The auction proceeded in an informal, jovial manner, with auctioneers Bill LePore, Michael Clark and Mike Kippenhan joking about items being worth “$2.2 million” and coaxing the crowd to up the bid another few dollars.

The highest-selling items of the night were “Earth and Other,” a painting by Harlan, and a painting by Pat Hanson, both of which sold for $500 apiece. Many items, however, sold for as little as $20, despite having an estimated market value of several hundred dollars.

“We wanted students to be able to participate,” Harlan said, noting that it is rare that art students are able to afford to purchase artwork of this kind, which often sells for thousands of dollars.

Sarah Wolf Newlands, who graduated with a master of fine arts degree from PSU last year and also volunteered for the auction, said that the event was important for drawing attention to the art program at PSU.

“Its kind of an undiscovered place,” Wolf Newlands said. She explained that by providing a foundation in the liberal arts as well as the fine arts, PSU has resources that do not exist in an exclusively art school. She also noted that a state university art program is important because it “lets everyone be an artist,” even those who may not be able to go to an expensive private institution.

Wolf Newlands called the auction a great success.

“We need every single nickel we can get, however we can get it,” she said.”Being the first year, this is something we are building.”

Harlan also said that they hope to make the auction a yearly event, possibly offering more types of scholarships for students in the future, such as opportunities to study in other countries.

The auction also comes at a time when many art students at PSU are upset about the level of funding the art department receives.

“Art departments consistently get the financial shaft,” Holly Andres, a graduate art student, said.

Andres also explained that scholarship money is a major factor when graduate art students are selecting where to go to school, and she hoped that having more money would “up the ante” for attracting students to PSU.

Art student Scott Mazariegos, who won the grand prize in the raffle, a sculpture called “New Growth Series #9,” by Michihiro Kosuge, also agreed with Andres’ sentiments.

“At our college, the art department is not supported that much,” he said.

“We’re taking the initiative to support it ourselves,” added Alaina Armstrong, another fine arts student.