Auction features student and teacher artwork

This year’s Hand and Heart Auction featured a range of community artwork that sparked two bidding wars, one for a portrait of Latin Teacher Walter Young drawn by English Teacher Zoe Balaconis, and the other for several photo albums by Photography Teacher Andrew Warren.

Arts Department Head Laura Tangusso organized the auction—now an annual tradition for the holiday season before Winter Break—which was open to the whole community and took place this year from December 7 to 14. Students, teachers, parents, and alums donated roughly 100 pieces—including paintings, drawings, ceramics, woodworking, and photos—to the display at the Upper School (US) first-floor art gallery, where attendees gathered to finalize their bids at a closing reception scheduled between the orchestra and jazz concerts on the same evening. 

A staple at each year’s auction are pieces from Woodworking Teacher Paul Ruhlmann’s classes, Ms. Tangusso said. This year his classes made chopsticks, toaster tongs, puzzles, and cooking spatulas, small projects he tucked into the curriculum for the specific purpose of donating to Hand and Heart.

Mr. Ruhlmann praised the auction as a wonderful event that supports sustainability.

“Because the art pieces are donated, they are gifts to the community, and gifts should be shared and passed on,” he said. “Handmade pieces especially have a special value. I encourage the kids to make gifts instead of just buying them.”

Bidders wrote their name, email, and amount bid on a slip of paper next to the piece. The bids closed at 8:00 p.m. at the reception, with the item winners later notified via email by Ms. Tangusso.  

For both Ms. Balaconis’ portrait of Dr. Young and Mr. Warren’s photo albums, a bidding war developed throughout the previous week and during the closing reception, Ms. Tangusso said. The portrait of Dr. Young ultimately sold for $57, and each of Mr. Warren’s books sold for around $30.  

English Teacher Ariel Duddy, along with 19 students, donated a handmade quilt comprised of BB&N t-shirts, which sold for $60, while English Department Head Sharon Krauss contributed a wool baby’s cap she had knitted for the occasion, which sold for $35. 

The Eco-Reps participated in the auction as well, making and donating hot packs—bags of rice covered in fabric. 

“I really like the Hand and Heart auction and getting involved in it as an artist,” Eco-Rep Adon Goodpaster ’20, a donor of paintings in past auctions, said. “It’s a great way to make something and also raise money for a cause that you’re passionate about.”

Elizabeth Savage ’20, who donated two drawings and bid on a few photos ultimately brought home by others, praised the concept of the auction and called it a win-win for everyone involved. 

“The pieces I bid on just seemed like things that I’d want to hang up,” she said, adding, “It’s really fun to see artwork and photos from people in the school since it’s not all from art class displays.”

Ms. Tangusso said she enjoys organizing the auction to support charities.

“I myself can’t donate thousands of dollars to any organization every year, but by making this effort in collaboration with the community, I feel I can give something substantial that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to,” she said.

The auction raised $2,518, which will go to five organizations: the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Habitat for Humanity, Margaret Fuller House, and Partners in Health. 

“The hardest part of this auction for me is choosing the organizations,” Ms. Tangusso said. “There are so many good causes that are all worthy, but if we put in too many, then no one charity gets much money.”

Before the auction, she sent a What’s Happening email to the community asking which organizations she should consider as this year’s charities.

Although the amount raised this year was not as much as in past years—the most money raised, $5,800, was in 2014—participation was very high, in part because she had set the auction items’ base prices lower than in prior years, Ms. Tangusso said.

“The lower prices were nicer because [they] made it more affordable for students,” Ms. Tangusso said. “More students bought this year than normal, whereas a lot of times it’s the parents swooping in.”

The Hand and Heart Auction began in 2004 after Elaine Stampfer ’05 approached Ms. Tangusso with the idea of auctioning ceramics to support a charity organization. Elaine successfully launched an auction that took place that year and the following spring. Six years after Elaine’s graduation, Ms. Tangusso resurrected the auction and expanded it to include not just ceramics but artwork in other mediums as well. 

Ms. Tangusso said she looks forward to the school’s ongoing support of charities through future Hand and Heart Auctions.

“[The auction] is really a nice way to give,” Ms. Tangusso said, “and I think it’s a valuable experience—especially for students—to create something that someone else will enjoy and in turn benefits others in need.”


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