The Aspen Community School has earned national renown for integrating the arts into its curriculum, but now the school is infusing art into its ongoing $4.9 million fundraising campaign.
An online art auction, in partnership with the Little Nell and Aspen Skiing Co., launches today to help bring the school closer to its goal.
The ambitious fundraising push is to secure a state grant to remake the Woody Creek public charter school’s aging campus. School officials launched the “I Believe” campaign in September, after winning a $4.2 million Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant from the state. In order to access the money, however, the school must raise $4.9 million by May 1.
The campaign has raised $1.6 million this far.
“We have two months to go and we’re really optimistic that we’ll reach our goal,” said Skye Skinner, director of the nonprofit Compass, which operates the community school. “It’ll just be a ninth-inning victory.”
Dubbed “I Believe in Art,” the auction includes more than 90 pieces, including work from renowned artists like Ferenc Berko, Andrew Roberts-Gray, Karl Hollinger and Tom Benton. All of the artwork has been donated, and all of the proceeds from sales will go directly to the campaign. Roughly one-fifth of the items in the auction were donated by The Little Nell from its extensive collection, which is curated by Aspen gallery owner David Floria.
Over the next two weeks, selected works up for auction will be on display in the five-star slopeside hotel’s lobby. Bidding will take place online at www.ibelieveacs.org . The pieces are valued from $100 to $16,000 and include paintings, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry and photography.
The prime real estate for the campaign in the Nell lobby is part of a larger donation and partnership between the hotel, the Aspen Skiing Co. and the community school’s campaign.
The community school has been a past recipient of the SkiCo’s environmental grants, but the I Believe in Art partnership marks a deeper commitment from the SkiCo. Compass recently elected SkiCo chief financial officer Matt Jones to its board. Jones, who has children at the school and whose wife teaches at the Carbondale Community School, helped spearhead I Believe in Art, said campaign spokesperson Lara Whitley.
The school has related closely to the visual arts and artists since its founding in 1970, and integrated arts education into its curriculum. It has won the National School of Distinction Award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for those efforts.
Along with well-known artists like Berko and Benton, the items for auction come from the circle of artists touched by the community school — parents, teachers, students and Roaring Fork Valley residents promoting excellent arts education among them.
“Our goal has always been to be ourselves and not try to run anybody else’s campaign,” Whitley said of the unique fundraiser.
The $1.6 million the campaign has collected so far has come largely from community school alumni, parents, past donors and local residents with connections to the school, Skinner said. Over the last two months or so, they have been reaching out to a wider circle of potential donors, large and small, who may not have that personal connection.
The art auction, with its online format, has the potential to bring word of the campaign to art collectors and others worldwide.
“Hopefully this will get us in front of a whole new group of people,” said Skinner.
Community school students regularly out-perform the rest of the state, despite its undersized and dilapidated log cabin facilities. In 2012, its 127 students’ reading scores were 24 percent higher and math scores were 28 percent higher than the state average. The campus facilities, meanwhile, are ranked near the bottom 1 percent of educational facilities in the state — ranking 24th to last out of 1,689 public schools in Colorado in 2012.
To learn more about the campaign and browse the artwork up for auction, visit www.ibelieveacs.org .