First Friday-goers will have the opportunity to bid on their favorite local art next month during First Friday's first-ever Chinese Auction for art. The auction will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Genetti Hotel, 200 W. Fourth St.
Anna Falat, owner of the Eagle Rock Winery, 414 W. Fourth St., and chairperson of the First Friday Committee, is one of the organizers of the auction. Falat said the Chinese Auction differs from traditional auctions in that it is slower-paced and doesn't require the bidder to be present while the item is up for sale.
"It's a non-attendance kind of auction," Falat said. "The nice thing about it is you can place a bid and then go enjoy other First Friday events. Then you can come back periodically to check your item and see if you're still the highest bidder. If you're not, you can place another bid and walk around a little more and come back at the end of the night to see if you've won. We want people to be able to walk around the city and enjoy First Friday, so the Chinese Auction seemed the best way to go."
Falat said she wanted the auction to directly benefit local artists. "This is the first time we've done this and it's a result of our activities last year," Falat said. "The First Friday Committee got a grant from the tourist bureau last year. Rather than use the money for any other kind of expenses, we decided that all the money should go directly to the artists this year. We wanted to invest in their work. So every month we took at least $1,000 and we bought very good artwork."
Falat said the art was acquired using a secret buying process called the "secret shopper program." "We went around and secretly bought the pieces from the artists," Falat explained. "It's secret because the shopper didn't identify himself or herself until they got to the 'check out.' They then told the artist that they had selected their piece(s)."
All of this secret buying means that even Falat hasn't seen all of the work that will be up for action. "I purchased three pieces myself, but I don't know the extent of everything that will be on auction because of the secret buying process."
Nevertheless, Falat was able to provide a general overview of the work that will be auctioned. "I'm guessing here, but I would say there are around 20 to 25 pieces up for auction. We have some beautiful mosaics, prints and we have art made specifically for children - if you want to decorate a baby's room, for example. A lot of it is visual art, but we also have jewelry and artisan-type work like hand-carved bowls, pottery, etc. There's a variety of what's available. We have some very modern art, too. There's a collage with Spiderman as its centerpiece, so we have some traditional work and some abstract work. It's a real mix."
Falat said she hopes the Chinese Auction will raise money for the First Friday Committee so they can foster and promote local artistic talent. "We hope that everyone who attends First Friday will come to the Genetti and place a bid to support our local artists. We've got at least $10,000 worth of art up for auction and we're hoping to get at least that much back, if not a little more so we can do even better this year. The idea is to keep the liveliness and profitability for the First Friday artists alive."
According to Falat, the committee's efforts to grow First Friday have been a success so far. "We know it's working because our size has increased exponentially from just last year. So much so that we're talking about closing off the streets to accommodate all the people who come to First Friday. We decided not to do that yet because we want to keep traffic moving, but we may get to the point where we have so many people that we'll have to close off a few streets. It would be nice to have that many people. Even so, the first First Friday we had three artists and now we have 30 plus every month."
Falat praised the talent of local artists who have participated in First Friday and made it a success. "The whole purpose of First Friday is to have artists interact with the general community so that they can get an idea of the talent we have in our area," she said. "The quality of the work we get in Williamsport is absolutely amazing-even from younger people. I've purchased pieces made by high school and college students and can't get over how beautiful and well done they are. The more we can get our local talent exposed and the more we can support our artists, the better this city is going to be. We want to encourage the development and prosperity of artists in our area. We want to encourage the new generation of artists that are coming up."
Falat said she hopes all of the secret shoppers will attend the auction to bid on the work they purchased. "All of the secret shoppers have been invited and we encouraged them to bid on the things they picked out," she said. "We're already getting phone calls from them asking about the 'when and where' of the auction."
Falat said she is eyeing several pieces in the auction and will likely place a few bids herself. "I have a few favorites," Falat said. "There's one piece that I really love. It's a six-paneled mural by the artist Liz Miele. It was the first thing we bought for the auction and it's absolutely fabulous."
A regular First Friday venue, The Eagle Rock Winery will host live music and food the night of the auction. "We're always open for First Friday," Falat said. "We finally opened our porch so people can sit out there and enjoy the weather. We'll have hors d'oeuvre and live music."
Falat said she'll have to balance running the winery with bidding on her favorite artwork. "The winery is open that night," she said. "I'll have to have my son come down and cover for me so I can get over to the Genetti and place a bid!"