Daily Sitka Sentinel

Island Institute Spring Auction

If you’re lucky on Saturday, you could win enough eggs to help out the Easter Bunny, enough art to furnish a new house and enough halibut cheeks to feed your family.

The annual Island Institute Spring Auction is 7 p.m. Saturday at Centennial Hall. 

Island Institute board members and staff picked the theme “Luck of the Irish,” since the event is on St. Patrick’s Day. But they noted that – aside for a few four-leaf clovers here and there – they don’t plan on going too overboard with the theme.

As in previous years, the auction has an impressive array of items and services donated by individuals, organizations and businesses.

“It’s pretty amazing how many people give to this,” said Elena Gustafson, the new Island Institute program associate. She is experiencing her first Island Institute auction and has been fascinated to see the sundry Alaska-oriented donations offered up for sale.

Among the donations this year are:

– paintings, prints and pottery by local artists, Alaska artists and artists from the Lower 48. Island Institute co-director Carolyn Servid said there were so many art donations that the category will have its own section at Centennial Hall. She thanked the local artists who contributed, as well as Mark Ojala, who turned over most of his sizable art collection for the auction.

– an evening hosted by writer John Straley and artist Norm Campbell. For the past few years, the two have combined talents to donate a piece of customized art or an interesting evening that draws on their interests. This year, the donation will include wine and appetizers and a game of bocce at the Straley home on the water.

– flightseeing, an Allen Marine Wildlife Quest boat tour and water taxi service on Burgess Bauder’s “Death Barge.”

– six weeks of fresh eggs (six dozen eggs).

– tax and boat repair services.

– classes and food of all sorts.

The event has a goal of raising about $10,000 which comes in by participants bidding on silent and live auction items that range in estimated value from $12 to $700.

The local contra dance band Fishin’ for Cats will provide entertainment, and the ever-energetic Ken Fate will be the auctioneer. 

As in past years, the event is catered by Ludvig’s Bistro, this year with an Irish-theme menu, and a no-host bar will be on tap. 

Island Institute co-director Dorik Mechau said it’s well recognized that auctions are not an efficient way for nonprofits to raise money because of the time and effort needed.

But he said the Island Institute auction is not only a fundraiser, but an event where people have fun getting together for a good time, and spending money. Businesses and individuals donate generously to the cause, “in the face of being hit up again and again and again,” he said.

The fundraiser supports the activities of the Island Institute as it looks forward to its 28th year. The institute is a nonprofit organization that sponsors a Writer in Residence program and for 25 years ran the Sitka Symposium. Although the last symposium was held in 2009, the Island Institute is firing up now for a different kind of summer event.

The Institute has invited individuals from Sitka, other parts of the state and outside the state for a three-day roundtable discussion July 18-20 on the Sheldon Jackson campus. Their expertise is in the areas of art, science, philosophy, finance, social media and religion.

Most of the time the roundtable group will be in a “fishbowl,” observed during their talks by up to 30 audience members. But at times, roles will be reversed and the audience members will lead the discussion.

The discussion will be focused on the topic of “resilient communities,” how communities have the ability to adapt to change, and thrive in times of turbulence, Servid said.

“It’s a positive way to think about adapting to change,” she said.

Gustafson said she has been focused on the topic of resilience in her own writing, and looks forward to hearing what the core group has to offer.

Another change this year is the move of Island Institute’s office into Yaw Chapel on the Sheldon Jackson campus, now owned by the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

“It’s a lovely space,” Servid said. “It’s nice to be on the campus where there’s a lot of good energy, people working together to create something. We’re so lucky to have it as a community asset.”

Servid said she’s also interested in the vision for the campus as a multi educational center for the arts, humanities and natural sciences. “We’re the humanities part of that,” Servid said. “It’s a large part of what the Island Institute is.” 

Gustafson, who arrived in Sitka Nov. 10, represents another new development at the Island Institute. It’s the first time the organization has had a program associate on staff, thanks to funding provided by a bequest from the late Yvonne Mozee, a photographer and writer who valued the Island Institute programs.

Gustafson was told about the job by a former Summer Symposium faculty member Don Snow. Snow is a professor at Whitman College, where Gustafson earned her degree in environmental humanities.

“It fit in perfectly with the kinds of things I was doing in my spare time,” Gustafson said. “It seemed like a wonderful job.”

So far, Sitka has been a good fit for her.

“Sitka is such a wonderful, warm community,” Gustafson said. “I’m amazed how much collaboration of the arts happens here.”

The Island Institute is getting ready for its next writer in residence, Janee Baugher, a poet from Seattle who is also working on a collection of essays. Servid said Sitka should be an interesting place for Baugher to work, since she’s afraid of water. Baugher has taught at all levels from elementary to high school, and is looking forward to working with kids in Sitka’s schools.

The organization’s website is www.islandinstitutealaska.org

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