An art gallery after hours isn’t typically somewhere to expect a party.
But this Saturday, the customarily locked doors at Buffalo Arts Studio (BAS) swung open as guests excitedly filtered in. The elevator that usually makes its final run at 5 p.m. made rounds from the lobby to the fifth floor, carrying visitors to the main event as they clicked through online check-in.
Live on Five is an annual “big auction of small works” hosted by Buffalo Arts Studio, a nonprofit that supports and nurtures the local art scene. The event features hundreds of 5 by 5 inch pieces created by local artists, selling anywhere from $25 to $250.
The pieces were on display starting March 4, and virtual bidding began last Thursday. On Saturday, the entire community was invited to see all 600 tiny works of art on display and count down to the end of the auction together.
As they arrived on the fifth floor, visitors followed the lively sounds of conversation and laughter to the exhibit in Suite 500. The love that the local art community holds for BAS was immediately clear by the event’s massive turnout. Hundreds of art creators, collectors and appreciators showed up to eat, drink and, of course, spend money.
Many attendees showed up to support friends, family and coworkers whose art was on display. Helen Shandraw from the Stained Glass Association of America came to see her boss’ stained-glass square hanging among all the other pieces.
“This is my first time here, and I just think this place is incredible,” Shandraw said. “We’re all part of the art community here in Buffalo, so it’s good to support. This was also a great opportunity to check out BAS before their other events coming up.”
While musing over bidding strategies, guests marveled at the impressive talent filling the gallery. Getting in front of the crowd allowed guests to view each piece individually and admire every expertly-placed detail on the miniature canvases.
Artists displayed their talent in paint, photography, ceramics and everything in between. Artist Bianca McGraw created fascinating textures and depth with coffee as her medium of choice. Her pieces, depicting an old-fashioned gumball machine with coffee instead of paint, brought in $135 total.
Allan Hebeler’s dreamy watercolors were a fan favorite. Rich purples, blues and pinks melted together on his canvases to reveal feminine figures floating in water and flowers.
Attendee Christine Bukowski tried her luck, hoping to take one home.
“It expires in like, 27 minutes, so I’m going to do a last-minute bid and try to get it,” Bukowski said, pointing to her favorite. “She’s the one I want, but she’s already at 95 bucks right now. And I think other people are going to have the same strategy.”
All eight of Hebeler’s pieces sold at prices ranging from $55 to $135. Bukowski’s pick went home with one lucky winner for $120.
Looking over everyone’s heads from the opposite side of the room was just as special. All the pieces featuring different subjects and mediums blended together into one beautiful work of art on the gallery wall. Both the artwork and the crowd surrounding it seemed to symbolize the unifying powers of a supportive art scene.
New and established artists alike were proud to see their work on the wall, knowing that every sale supported BAS.
“For me, being a smaller artist, it’s a lot different,” artist DeeDee Stac said. “I’m still trying to have my own art show one day, so I don’t want to submit a piece that I want for my art show because then I won’t have it anymore. I feel like a lot of artists will submit something they already have in their studio to support the gallery that has been supporting us for so long.”
Stac’s sales — paintings of hyper-realistic dice against bright backgrounds — brought in $150 for the organization, which she cherishes.
As the auction drew to a close, dozens of pieces sold for the max price of $250 while the rest continued to climb, $5 at a time, until the very last minute. The crowd buzzed with excitement as director Shirley Verrico desperately tried to corral everyone into the next room so that volunteers could start packaging up the pieces.
“You see that the community comes out for us, the community of artists, but also the broader community comes out to support us, and it’s a real tribute to what we’re trying to do,” Verrico said. “We just are so thankful. I feel really, really blessed.”
The arts desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org