‘Tis the season for Spring fundraising events in the Bitterroot Valley - Locals have many wonderful causes to support with their time, energy and resources. The Bitterroot Performing Arts Council is vying to bring several great giving programs under one roof for their Spring for the Arts event on Saturday, May 13, 2017. 

Last April was the first rendition of the current format and the success has garnered a repeat performance. It was also the day Laurie Ruffner was introduced as the new executive director.

“In her first year, she has carried the torch of the organization well,” said BPAC Board President Peggy Tonon. “We’ve had a successful season with great performers who were hosted very well and loved their time in Hamilton.”

Ruffner said, “It has been a honor to work hard and hit my one-year anniversary with so much momentum and community support. One of my goals was to have our next season of performers secured so we could unveil at Spring for the Arts who will be coming next year. The nature of negotiating with touring artists makes that a difficult task, but we are happy to report that we will be announcing a sneak peek.”

Last year, former executive director Monica Grable was honored for her many years of work in establishing the non-profit organization and a performing arts scholarship was established in her name at Hamilton High School. Funding for the scholarship came directly from the sale of three pieces of art created by advanced art students at HHS. The art was auctioned at Spring for the Arts and each artist earned half the proceeds. The other half funded the scholarship. The three philanthropic artists were Jordan Bauder, Avery Joyner and Bailey Pitzinger. The recipient of the 2016 scholarship was Aidan Carmody who is currently studying music therapy at Pacific University.

The student art auction will repeat this year and include paintings by Madison Mora, Derek Perry and Royal Beyer. Art Focus generously framed three of the student pieces for the auction.

Seventeen-year-old Derek Perry donated a vibrant semi-abstract painting of a rainbow trout. With paint-covered hands, he paused for a moment during his advanced art class to talk about his talent.

“I was that kind of kid – if a crayon was lying around, I’d be drawing on the wall,” he said. “Drawing and coloring were always something I was doing. By eighth grade, I got serious about my art and now painting is something I love and that I’ve become pretty passionate about.”

He describes most of his work as surreal, abstract and dreamy.

“Explosions of color is the current theme of all my work,” he said. “I’m enjoying really vibrant colors and the juxtapositions between them.”

He said he knows art will be a part of his future profession in some way.

“I’ve experimented with computer designs and I’m open to animation, but I’m somewhat of a purist,” he said. “I could see myself trying out some political cartoons because I find them fascinating. I love my AP Humanities class and being able to compartmentalize vast concepts and extrapolate things that add to intellect. I’ve studied political cartoons throughout the ages and have loved the way they mock and exploit while using metaphors and allusions.”

A series of Perry’s work is also on display tonight at the advanced student art show for Hamilton High art students at The Mineshaft at 111 N. Second St. from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Live music will be offered by Dwayne the Thief – a band made up of HHS musicians Sydney Cruse and Finn Belanger. The Hamilton art departments are also simultaneously hosting a massive art exhibit for sixth to twelfth grade students at City Hall in the Bedford Building at 223 S. Second St.

“Friday will be a great night to be downtown and walk between the two exhibits that are down the street from each other,” Kasey Arceniega said. She teaches the advanced art students at HHS.

“These art shows are really important in showcasing the growth of our aspiring artists as they share ideas and make connections,” she said. “I’ve seen tangible growth from our advanced artists as they find their voice and preferred genre to match their skill-set. They’ve had a great experience this year creating a series of work that is meaningful to them. They’re extremely talented – not only because of natural abilities but because they’ve pushed themselves through a series of concepts, skills and techniques.”

The AP Art students with 10 or more centrally-themed pieces in the advanced exhibit are Finn Belanger, Kaylynn Homyak, Alleah Jordan and Hadley Gideon.

Royal Beyer, 17, is an HHS junior who is donating two pieces to the student auction at Spring for the Arts. One is a sweet drawing of teacups and the other is a vibrant watercolor of wildlife.

“I’ve been drawing for a long time and started taking private art lessons in second grade from Gail Cluff,” she said. “Art has helped me in everything. I’ve learned what a visual learner I am and knowing that has helped me in every subject. I hope to study interior design someday or something that requires an artistic eye.”

Beyer’s works seemed to be themed around portraits or ocean themes.

“For a time, I was really into mermaids,” she admits. “But Mrs. A has really helped me fine-tune my technique. She’s super open-minded about everything we do and gives us the ability to guide ourselves while using knowledge and technique to advance our work.

“She describes my work as clean cut,” Beyer said. “I’m kind of a perfectionist so I find myself re-doing stuff a lot but she helps me through it. She is by far my favorite teacher and I think we’re quite a bit alike. If I’m working on something and frustrated, she can look at it and say, ‘this is what you don’t like about it.’ She’s always right – I don’t know how – but she is. She knows me and puts in a lot of extra time to help us succeed.”

Beyer said she realizes selling her work for a charitable cause is a good thing and something she may do often in the future.

“I think it’s a good cause and I hope people will buy the student art,” she said.

After the auction, the recipient of the performing arts scholarship will be announced at the HHS scholarship awards assembly at the end of the month.

Organizers for Spring for the Arts will also be auctioning works by talented, local adult artists including Alissa Durling, Flora Engelbrecht and Ryan Kissinger.

“We’ve got other wonderful arts-related items to auction as well like hand-painted silk scarves and wood carvings,” Ruffner said. “But we also tried to focus on offering wonderful experience packages like fly-fishing trips and concerts. We’re really grateful for those who have donated to the cause. It’s critical to the success of the Bitterroot Performing Arts Council since ticket sales only cover a small portion of our operating costs - especially heading into summer.

“We’ve had amazing concerts at the Hamilton Performing Arts Center, like Darrell Scott last week, and we’ve had great outreach programs for our students when these world-renowned performers come to town,” Ruffner said. “We want that to continue far into the future so we can inspire, educate and entertain school children, subscribers and audience members who travel far and wide to attend concerts in our town. It’s a wonderful resource that we can’t afford to lose. Attending Spring for the Arts is one way to ensure that.”

For more information or to purchase tickets to Spring for the Arts, call the BPAC Box Office at 406.363.7946. Tickets are $50 per person and include a tasty three-course dinner (with gluten-free options), a no-host bar and live music. Premium tables for eight are also available to purchase or sponsor. Spring for the Arts will be Saturday, May 13 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the St. Francis Community Center in Hamilton.