Holiday Angels continue to benefit arts efforts

Published 9:35 am Wednesday, December 1, 2021

I believe in angels as I have seen them annually at this time.  They come in the form of a painting by artist Jere Allen. Twelve years ago the Arts Council was rethinking its longest running fundraiser the annual Ornament Auction.  All events have a life cycle and the ornament auction faced a few challenges. The event had become so large it no longer fit in a home. The event moved around each year so it did not have a signature day.  Scaling the event seemed undoable. Would more artists donate ornaments?

Volunteers, artists, board members and staff discussed what made the long running event popular.  Most agreed that it was the sense of community that was at the core of the event.  A thank you party for members. The annual event became a way for artists to give the gift of their talents, community members won one of a kind ornaments, and the event became an unofficial community Christmas party.  Several key supporters of the Arts Council stepped forward to offer support in relaunching the Ornament Auction.  The idea to use the Arts Council’s newest tool, The Powerhouse, as a home for the auction opened the event.

John Currence asked local restaurants to donate small holiday bites and hosted a table decorating contest highlighting restaurants from City Grocery to Maharaja.  Local businesses offered to sponsor the annual event paying for bands to play Christmas music. Jere Allen, and his wife Joe Ann, led the call for artists to donate their talents and encouraging artists to create ornaments.  Jere Allen starts every call annually by creating a Christmas Angel painting as the first ornament of the auction. Local artists joined in with the arts council receiving over 100 ornaments to be auctioned.  The tradition started by these community members faced new challenges in the past two years.  

Restaurants have struggled and are just starting to emerge.  Local artists have not been able to show work, attend festivals, or exhibit.   Once again the ideas and suggestions poured forth from the community on how to keep the auction thriving.  Local artists suggested including tours of their studios for small groups creating an experience. Local restaurants offered to curate culinary treats for these small gatherings.  Local businesses from FNB Bank, High Cotton Wine and Spirits, and Coors Beer offered support to keep the event occurring.  Visit Oxford worked with the arts council to imagine a winter wonderland of ornaments around the real Ice Skating rink at the Old Armory.  

Once again, Jere and Joe Ann Allen, started the call donating a new Christmas Angel painting to the Arts Council.  Jere and Joe Ann Allen have always asked for one feature for the painting.  That instead of an auction the painting be raffled.  They hope the opportunity to win the painting would draw more community members to the Arts Council to access programs and build support.  Raffle tickets for the Jere Allen Christmas Angel along with auction for Artist ornaments with studio tours featuring culinary and cocktail pairings from local restaurants are online at www.oxfordarts.com The annual ornament auction is Friday, Dec. 10, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Old Armory Pavilion.

Wayne Andrews is chairman of the YAC.