Fine Arts picnic, auction set

MONMOUTH -- A festive, but critical fundraiser for what's arguably the Willamette Valley's most renowned performing arts series will take place on Sunday.



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Bidders will have a shot at items like gourmet dinners, a weekend at the Oregon Coast and much more at the Smith Fine Art Series' Picnic & Auction Sunday.

MONMOUTH -- A festive, but critical fundraiser for what's arguably the Willamette Valley's most renowned performing arts series will take place on Sunday.

The Smith Fine Arts Series Mid-Summer Picnic & Auction will start at 4:30 p.m. at the historic Gentle House at the north end of the Western Oregon University campus off Monmouth Avenue.

The series brings in five or six dance, music and theater performances to Monmouth every year. Betsy Messer, SFAS

board member, said the program has enhanced the cultural scene for Polk County.

"We have world-class acts like Asleep at the Wheel and Pink Martini performing right here, 10 miles from Dallas and not far from Corvallis and Salem," Messer said.

For those who missed Fat Tuesday, the 12th edition of the picnic will give you a reprieve -- it's Mardis Gras themed and will feature zydeco music by the WOU Mardis Gras band.

The menu includes Andouille sausage with Creole mustard, crawfish cakes, jambalaya, and bread pudding with rum sauce and beverages.

Items ranging from gourmet dinners and fine art to an Oregon Coast weekend will be awarded during the silent and oral auctions.

Sandy Newland, SFAS program manager, said the hope is to raise close to $30,000 in what's going to be a critical season for the series and its associated educational outreach efforts.

SFAS has been wrestling financial issues since December. That was when the university announced that it was cutting off the $14,000 it provided for a program manager as a cost-saving move.

The series received a boost when Western students agreed in the spring to increase their incidental fees by $24 every term; that yielded $38,000 for operations.

The latest blow came last week, however, when WOU cut a roughly $9,000 stipend it pays executive director Keller Coker to coordinate and book acts.

"We've been preparing for this for a couple of years and we had the biggest ending fund balance we've had in years in June," Newland said.

That's all crucial as the program is now on its own.

"We've lost a lot of funding from the state, so fundraising and lots of tickets sales are important."

A Good Cause

What:

Smith Fine Arts Series Mid-Summer Picnic & Auction.

When:

Sunday. Silent auction starts at 4:30 p.m., dinner begins at 6 p.m., followed by oral auction.

Where:

Gentle House, 855 Monmouth Ave. N, Monmouth.

Cost:

$30 per person or $200 for a table of eight.

Of note:

Auction items include a gourmet Italian dinner at the home of WOU Dean of Education Hilda Rosselli; two-night stay at Bella Beach vacation homes near Depoe Bay; five-course Palestinian dinner for six; deep-sea fishing trip out of Newport; gift baskets, jewelry and more.

For more information or to buy tickets:

503-838-8333 or fineart@wou.edu.



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