Spruce Pine, NC – Toe River Arts will hold its inaugural online auction July 17 – 19, 2020 to raise operational and programmatic funds lost as a result of gift shop and gallery closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Past auctions to support the organization have taken place in person, where supporters gathered to celebrate the arts and community. The tradition continues this year, albeit online, allowing patrons of the arts to contribute safely from their homes.

The online auction will feature approximately forty pieces of one-of-a-kind artwork, spanning a multitude of media, with the majority of pieces being made in Mitchell, Yancey, and Avery counties. Supporters will recognize work by renowned Toe River Artists like Jim Waters or Kenny Pieper and will be introduced to new members Melanie Risch and Noah Styles.

In addition to artwork, the online auction will feature a Call to Action for Toe River Arts educational programming. Bidders are encouraged to donate any amount to this call. Since 1976, Toe River Arts has worked with educators and students in Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey counties to ensure both students and educators have access to inspirational arts programming and professional development.

Over the past year, Toe River Arts has continued to offer free guitar and banjo lessons to middle school students through its TAPS (Traditional Arts Programming for Students) programming, brought the John Brown Little Big Band to area elementary schools, and worked with community partners to assemble and distribute 600 art activity packets to students sent home due to school closures. Toe River Arts staff is working diligently to reengineer existing programming into an online format, as well as develop new opportunities for educators. This October Toe River Arts, along with BIG INK, will bring a large-scale printmaking workshop to the community. Now more than ever, ongoing public support is critical to the organization’s educational programming.

Funding helps Toe Rivers Arts place instructors like Sam Maren in area schools. Maren, a guitar and banjo instructor, is “an arts educator and without places like the Toe River Arts … I have a hard time connecting. I give private lessons, but I much prefer to work in the school system, and in the community.” It is this connection that arts educators like Melisa Cadell deem essential to their students’ development. “I think the most critical part that Toe River Arts can play in arts education, at least for my students, is to provide a connection with the artists of the region to the students to be able to talk to artists … and make a real connection,” says Cadell.

Individuals interested in bidding on auction items can view listings and preview auction artwork online at toeriverarts.org/auction beginning Friday, July 3. A full list of participating artists can be found at toeriverarts.org/auction.

Auction items can be viewed in person at the Toe River Arts Spruce Pine Gallery during normal operating hours leading up to and during the auction. The Gift Shop & Gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10:30 AM to 5 PM. For more information, call 828.765.0524 or email [email protected].

Jim Waters, Still Got the Blues