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Contributed by: Amy Gibbs
MS Candidate - Arts Administration | Drexel University
Drexel University’s Arts Administration Graduate Association (AAGA) is a unique student-run organization whose mission is to prepare Arts Administration graduate students to be successful leaders in the arts and culture sector. One of the main initiatives of the AAGA is to give our students the opportunity to attend Arts Advocacy Day, as it is an unparalleled learning experience. For the past nine years, the AAGA has hosted an Annual Art Auction. All proceeds go directly to supporting the students’ participation in Arts Advocacy Day. Drexel was among the first Arts Administration graduate programs to send students to Arts Advocacy Day and has one of the largest student representations each year. To date, the AAGA has sent close to 250 students to Arts Advocacy Day which would not be possible without the great success of our Art Auction.
In 2004, AAGA Treasurer Moira Baylson approached the board with the idea of hosting an auction to send students to Arts Advocacy Day. Prior to this, the AAGA sent two or three students each year. This first auction was quite a struggle; until this point, the AAGA was only expected to present three discussion panels, and their budget reflected this. The biggest challenges they faced were a lack of funds and experience in planning special events. But through their diligence they were able to get nearly everything donated. The first Art Auction followed a discussion panel presented by two local artists, Eric Berg and Isaiah Zagar, and featured donations from students in the program. It was attended by nearly 150 members of the community and netted $1,400 in revenue, which supported 10 students’ trips to Arts Advocacy Day. Baylson, who is now the Deputy Cultural Officer with Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, says that she is impressed by the growth of the Auction, and is proud that it has become a staple of the Arts Administration program.
Baylson believes that two of the most valuable aspects of the Arts Administration program are the opportunity to attend Arts Advocacy Day and the planning and execution of the Auction, which supplements what we learn in the classroom. Students are able to put their development and marketing skills to work as well as recruit volunteers, manage contracts with on-campus vendors, and coordinate all details that go into planning an auction.
Since its first iteration in 2004, the Art Auction has grown to become the largest student-run event at Drexel and has also become an annual networking event for AAGA alumni - many of whom are now leaders in Philadelphia’s cultural sector.
This year, as soon the current Executive Board took office in June we began working towards setting a date, reserving a venue, and developing solicitation materials. In September, we learned that the space we had reserved was to be demolished, but we worked quickly with the University to find a beautiful new venue. One of the biggest challenges was finding a balance between the heighted expectations and increasing expenses while working with the same budget allocation that had been received in previous years. Despite many hurdles, the 9th Annual Art Auction took place on February 17th and was an absolute success! We had nearly 300 attendees, over 200 items up for auction, and netted over $4,750 in revenue. This is allowing us to send an unprecedented 25 students to Arts Advocacy Day!
I am excited to see the Art Auction continue to grow over the next several years and hope that each Auction will allow the AAGA to send more students to Arts Advocacy Day. Despite all of the hurdles, logistics, and long nights that the Auction brought, I will know it was all worth it on April 17th, when 25 emerging arts administrators will arrive on Capitol Hill to advocate for the arts.
Drexel's 2011-2012 AAGA Board
2012 Auction Aerial View