Art Magnified: A Is For Art

Auction Exposes High School Students To The Art World

Sara MacNeil
4 min read
Jumping Man and Puddle
Aidan O'Hara's "Jumping Man and Puddle" (Aidan O'Hara)
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Many of us have memories of the art classes that had a formative impact on us growing up. If you do, in fact, have these memories, you may be unnerved by the increasing lack of funding for arts education in public schools. Luckily, local educators have come up with an option for arts programs that are coming up short. The A is for Art gala auctions Albuquerque Public Schools’ most talented high school student’s artwork for its seventh year at Sandia Resort and Casino at 5:30pm on Nov. 19. The evening includes both a live and silent auction of paintings, ceramics, jewelry, drawings, prints and photographs. Students receive a 40 percent commission when their piece sells. The rest of the proceeds go to the APS Fine Arts Department.

Not only does A is for Art put money back into the classroom for teachers to buy art supplies, but it gives students a lesson on how to sell their work, allowing them to imagine a potential career in the arts. The professional experience of the auction is meant to help students decide whether they want to pursue the arts after high school. The night of the auction, students act as ambassadors for their schools and the fine arts.

A is for Art is hosted by the APS Education Foundation, a non-profit organization that works with APS to raise money for the Albuquerque school district. An APS Education Foundation selection committee and corporate partners choose student work for the auction from the
Metro Youth Exhibit, a show comprised of work by students from various APS high schools.

Professional artists are hired to jury the
Metro Youth Exhibit. Each juror is an expert artist in the specific category they choose student work from. Categories of the Metro Youth Exhibit include ceramics, jewelry, watercolor, printmaking, painting, drawing, photography and digital arts.

The auction also has a fun factor for buyers: The silent auction opens a day early and busy buyers can place bids on their cell phones. The silent auction is free and open to the public, while the live auction requires a ticket and comes with a fancy dinner and entertainment.

Bids for art in the silent auction can start from $35-105, depending on the size and quality of the piece, while bids for art in the live auction usually start at a minimum of $1,000.

Ann Blankenship, APS Fine Arts Department secondary art and drama coordinator, said one piece sold for $5,000 at last year’s auction. Blankenship has been working A is for Art as an APS teacher since the fundraiser was established seven years ago. Each piece in the auction has sold every year, she said. “We have a wonderful community. Because all the money goes back to the Foundation to fund fine arts events, everything always sells,” she said.

This year, 144 pieces were chosen from the
Metro Youth Exhibit for A is for Art. Only 5 out of the 144 pieces were chosen for the live auction. The remaining pieces are placed in the silent auction. Alyssa Sotelo from Volcano Vista High School, Katrionagh Austin from Eldorado High school, Amanda Burleson from La Cueva High School, Arthur Modine from Eldorado High School and Aidan O’Hara from Manzano High School were the five students whose work was selected for the live auction.

O’Hara, 18, took “Jumping Man and Puddle,” a black and white photograph capturing his teenage friend leaping into a puddle. O’Hara recently graduated from Manzano High School and is currently a freshmen at UNM pursuing a degree in mathematics. He started photography his freshman year of high school. “It struck a nerve and it gave me something to do,” he said.

“In the teen years self-image is distorted,” Lawren McConnell, APS Education Foundation fundraising development specialist, said. “Fine art skills translate into what you need in college and your career, but also help with identity, cultural awareness and perspectives on the world,” she said
. Tickets may be purchased at for $75 for individuals and $40 for students.

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